Government released a statement on Wednesday night in response to a hunger strike launched Tuesday by eight Cuban migrants at the Immigration Detention Centre.
The Cubans began protesting last week over how government is handling their asylum applications. A Cuban asylum applicant on supervised release from the facility said the protesters believe they have not had their legal rights properly explained to them, they have not received a fair asylum hearing, and they do not have access to channels of communication.
Their main fear is being expatriated back to Cuba, one migrant participating in the protest told the Cayman Compass.
The protest escalated into a hunger strike on Tuesday after detention center officers searched the detainees’ premises and confiscated their cellphones, according to the Cuban, who said the officers want to silence the detainees.
Government said on Wednesday night that Acting Chief Immigration Officer Garfield Wong met with the migrants last Thursday and committed to addressing their concerns.
Officials also confirmed that they confiscated five mobile phones, which are prohibited for safety and security reasons, from the same group of migrants.
“All occupants of the IDC are able to make 10 mins of outgoing phone calls a week on a landline, but can receive incoming calls 24 hours a day,” government stated.
Government added that as soon as the migrants refused food, the Prison Service implemented its protocols for such situations, including close observations and medical checks by Health Services Authority staff.
“Mindful of the peaceful nature of the protest, immigration and prison officers are working closely to de-escalate matters as much as possible,” government stated.
The public protest at the Immigration Detention Centre is the second one held there in the last six months. In July, nine Cubans launched a hunger strike in response to their prolonged detention at the immigration center. At the time, five men in the center had been detained for more than two years. Six others had been detained for more than one year.
Later in 2018, the Cubans were released from the detention center under government supervision while their asylum applications were considered.
Government stated on Wednesday night that 10 of the migrants who have been here for a long period of time remain on release in the community, and are subject to electronic monitoring.
The group of eight protesters were among 11 who arrived in the Cayman Islands on Sept. 28, when their boat became distressed in local waters on the way to Central America. Two persons from the group have already been repatriated to Cuba, according to government.