As a hunger strike at George Town’s Immigration Detention Centre completed its second week, a second asylum applicant was sent to the hospital.
One detainee told the Compass that the woman, one of three hunger strikers requesting a fair asylum process, experienced cardiac complications Saturday that required medical attention.
The Department of Immigration did not respond to a request for comment sent over the holiday weekend.
The woman had previously refused transport to the hospital, out of fear that the trip would be used as means to repatriate her to Cuba.
A translation error appeared to confuse the situation at the center, causing a wave of anxiety among migrants. Two Cubans, including the woman on hunger strike, said they were told their detention was a matter of “national security.” Several interpreted this to mean they could be visited by Cuba’s national police force, apparently called a similar name to the phrase used in the translation.
Detainees and community volunteers continue to complain about the quality of interpretation and translation services at the center, pointing out that government often employs translators from the Bay Islands of Honduras, where the dialect is distinct, and many speak Spanish as a second language.
Days before her hospitalization, the woman said she had made daily requests to guards that a representative from the Human Rights Commission visit the center and attend to migrant concerns. She became distressed that these requests were falling on deaf ears, as no one from the commission has visited the facility since the strike began.
Commission chairman James Austin-Smith said in an email to the Compass on Thursday that he had not received such requests. Rather than verbally submitting requests to guards, he said the migrants should have filled out the appropriate paperwork.
“The Commission is not aware of the identities of those on hunger strike currently and has not received any communication from individuals at the IDC [Immigration Detention Centre] in the last two weeks,” he said.
“All those detained at the IDC are aware of how to contact the Commission – by completing a complaint form (copies of which are available in Spanish at the IDC). We have not received any complaints since we understand the hunger strike began, so the Commission is unaware of the details of the complaints in the current hunger strike save from what we read in the press.
“If any individual at the IDC has made a complaint to the Commission they will [have] been provided with a response.”
It is not clear if migrants previously understood the distinction between making an oral versus a written request, but after Mr. Austin-Smith’s comments were relayed to them, the group requested a form that they intended to submit Tuesday morning, after Monday’s Heroes Day holiday.
Another man participating in the strike was taken to the hospital last weekend, according to Cubans at the facility. The man said he was administered an analgesic for headache and saline solution for dehydration.
The current hunger strike is the second at the facility in the past year. A group of nine migrants launched a hunger strike in July, culminating in their release to the community under government supervision.
While their release appeared to indicate a change to government’s policy of detaining asylum applicants in a Prison Service facility, that is no longer the case. The current group of migrants has been held in detention since their arrival in Cayman Brac in September.
Previously, migrants have been held in the facility, awaiting the processing of their asylum applications, for more than two years.