Cuban on hunger strike sent to hospital

Second hunger striker refuses medical care

The Immigration Detention Centre in central George Town. – Photo: Brent Fuller

Three Cubans detained in George Town’s Immigration Detention Centre continued to refuse food Monday, bringing their hunger struck into its seventh day.

The protest began last week, with seven men and one women originally participating, to bring attention to a number of concerns, including fear of forced repatriation to Cuba and a sense that asylum applicants have not received a fair process.

One man participating in the strike was taken to the hospital over the weekend, according to Cubans at the facility. The man said he was administered an analgesic for headache and saline solution for dehydration.

“We can’t give up …. My fear is that we’ll have to continue on [with the hunger strike],” the man told the Compass.

“[The Cayman government] has tossed us aside as if we were nothing. We are human beings and we want them to comply with international law.”

Another individual was reportedly recommended for medical treatment, but she has refused to be transported to the hospital. The woman said she was fearful that if officials removed her from the facility, she would repatriated to Cuba.

In response to this concern, the Department of Immigration said in a statement Monday, “if a migrant requires specialised care at the hospital they would be transported to the hospital without fear of repatriation.”

Fellow detainees said Monday that they had become concerned over the woman’s condition, describing her as thin, weak and unable to get up from her bed.

A doctor apparently visited the facility Monday but further details on the visit were not available. The Department of Immigration said Health Services Authority doctors visit the facility weekly to render care.

As of Monday afternoon,  the department said no migrants were currently hospitalized but did not comment on the reported hospitalization over the weekend.

“In keeping with our laws and practices (and historical evidence) migrants in need of medical care are provided with medical care, and due process is applied to all persons regardless of venue,” the department said.

The hunger strike is the second at the facility in six months and the reasons for the protest remain much the same. Cuban asylum applicants held in the facility have long complained about lack of access to sufficient legal counsel, denial of legal aid funding, extended detention periods and poor access to communication – the facility does not provide computer or internet access, and migrants are allowed 10 minutes a week to make outgoing phone calls. Personal cellphones are not permitted at the facility and a recent sweep by prison officials confiscated five mobile phones from detainees.

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 under government supervision while their asylum applications were considered. However, some of them were returned to the center because of issues with finding housing for them.

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