Three Cuban protesters and a baby were taken into custody by police midday Wednesday while demonstrating outside the Government Administration Building over ongoing denial of refugees’ marriage rights in the Cayman Islands.
The child, her parents and another woman were held at the Prisoner Detention Centre at Fairbanks until around 4pm Wednesday.
Following their release, police issued a statement, indicating the man and two women were arrested for offences of disorderly conduct in a public place and breach of the peace. Bail forms, provided to the Compass by the Cubans upon their release, stated the arrests had been for suspicion of disorderly conduct, breach of peace and unlawful assembly.
“Earlier this afternoon, 14 October, RCIPS officers responded to a report of a disturbance at the Government Administration Building, involving persons engaged in a protest at the location. While at the location, officers arrested a man and two women, all Cuban nationals, for offences of disorderly conduct in a public place and breach of the peace,” a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service statement said.
“They were taken into custody and transported to the Police Detention Centre, along with a young child who was in their care. Shortly after their arrival, the child was collected and looked after by a responsible person known to the arrestees. All three persons arrested were processed and subsequently granted bail, pending further investigations. The RCIPS will liaise with CBC as appropriate.”
The parents refuted the RCIPS claim that the baby had been released from the facility during their detention. They said the baby, who is under the age of 1 and has special dietary needs, remained with them in the detention centre throughout their arrest. A photo sent to the Compass following their release showed the mother and other Cuban women posing alongside the baby outside the detention centre.
One of the women, Y. Rodriguez, who was taken into custody alongside the baby’s parents, said the group had been protesting outside the government building, as they have done every Wednesday for months, to draw attention to government’s ongoing denial of refugee marriage rights. While the protests have not previously encountered problems, this week heavy rains disrupted the demonstration.
Rodriguez said the group ran for cover from the rain near the entrance of the Government Administration Building. She said a security guard confronted the group, telling them they were not permitted to protest so close to the building. Due to the rains and presence of the baby, however, Rodriguez said they did not want to leave the shelter provided by the building. Shortly thereafter, she said police were called and arrived to arrest them.
Rodriguez’s husband had left the protest with another Cuban refugee just moments before to meet with the Red Cross and discuss any possible assistance that the organisation could provide in their case.
The problem affecting the group revolves around the wording of Cayman’s asylum provision, section 111(3), of the Customs and Border Control Law (2018).
The section establishes that successful asylum applicants may add to their status a dependent child under the age of 18 who is already present on island. The section does not include mention of a spouse, a legal issue that Customs and Border Control has been aware of for more than a year.
As a result, at least three Cuban adults who successfully petitioned for asylum in Cayman have been denied the ability to add a spouse as a dependent to their immigration status.
Customs and Border Control has not responded to Compass requests, first sent to them in August, to provide an update about apparent plans to amend the law.
The Human Rights Commission, however, did provide an update to the Compass in August, indicating that the commission has been assured by the Ministry of Employment and Border Control that an amendment is in progress.
Former HRC Chairman James Austin-Smith wrote Wesley Howell, assistant director of Customs and Border Control, in May 2019, to explain government’s vulnerability to a lawsuit over the CBC Law.
“The Commission considers there to be a prima facie conflict between [section 111(3) of] the law and s. 9 of the Constitution – Right to Private and Family Life, as well as the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, of which Cayman is a signatory,” Austin-Smith wrote.
“As it stands, the Commission considers that should the Law be challenged in court on the basis that it is unconstitutional, such a challenge would be successful.”