Customs and Border Control officers are currently locked in a standoff with a group of Cuban migrants aboard a cargo ship anchored off the George Town harbour.
The standoff, which began earlier Tuesday afternoon, followed the rescue of the 11 Cubans who had been reported as “unaccounted for” on Sunday after their location could not be ascertained through their electronic monitoring devices.
Cuban Javier Jouz Varona and his wife Erica Alvarez-Freites, both of whom spent weeks protesting outside the Government Administration Building for recognition of their marriage rights, are among those aboard the vessel.
Alvarez-Freites, speaking with the Cayman Compass from aboard the ship, said, “We do not want to go back to Cayman.”
She said there are 11 Cubans aboard the ship, and CBC officers are aboard with them as well.
The couple also have their 10-month-old daughter with them.
“Immigration is on the boat and we are in the room. We do not want to go back… they closed the room… We have been here for nine hours,” she said via a telephone interview.
Her husband Varona livestreamed their interaction on his Facebook page when the CBC officers boarded the vessel.
During one of his videos, he could be heard telling the officers in Spanish, “I don’t want to come back to the Cayman Islands, sir.”
As the officers tried to persuade them to come on board their vessel and come back to Cayman, Varona said, “They don’t respect my rights… I am a political refugee.”
The officers at one point in the video asked where they got the boat they were rescued from, and he responded, “We buy the boat. All these people buy the boat from a guy living in the Cayman Islands.”
He said he has the evidence that the boat was legally theirs.
The CBC officer could be heard saying, “This ship is not going where you want to go… you have to come off the boat here.”
In a media statement earlier Tuesday, the CBC stated that it had received notification from the Cayman Islands Coast Guard that a vessel in distress with multiple persons on board was assisted by a passing vessel approximately 50 nautical miles west of Grand Cayman.
The statement said it was confirmed that the people on board were the migrants that were unable to be located on Sunday.
“The vessel was adrift for the past few days and the persons on board appear to be weak, however have not sustained any injuries. The migrants were returned to Grand Cayman by the passing vessel, and CBC, along with their partner agencies, are facilitating the disembarkation of the migrants,” it stated.
Since that statement, there has been no further updates on the migrants nor an indication that they were refusing to disembark.
The release stated that the migrants will have to adhere to COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols as required by legislation for all incoming persons.
CBC, in its statement, said this remains an active investigation and anyone with information is urged to contact the confidential information hotline at 1-800-534-2546 or email [email protected]
The Compass has reached out to CBC and the RCIPS for an update on what is happening aboard the vessel.
James Whittaker contributed to this article.