Cubans: ‘We do not want to go back to Cayman’

Update: 2:18pm Customs and Border Control has said all efforts are being made to “accommodate the safety” of the Cuban migrants who are refusing to disembark the Bulk Freedom cargo ship which is docked off George Town Harbour.

CBC, in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, confirmed one of the 13 Cuban migrants – including a baby – on the ship has been taken to the government’s Holiday Inn quarantine facility.

“No medical issues have been reported,” it said.

CBC said the man “voluntarily disembarked the vessel”.

This exclusive Cayman Compass photo shows the Cuban migrant who opted to disembark the Bulk Freedom cargo ship after refusing to leave since being rescued at sea Tuesday. Photo: Alvaro Serey.

The Cayman Compass, which has been covering this developing story since yesterday, obtained a photo of the migrant who opted to disembark the vessel.

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The CBC acknowledged that the migrants are refusing to disembark.

“The Cayman Islands Government continues to provide care in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention and that approach will continue,” the CBC said in the statement.

CBC confirmed that there remain 10 adult males, two adult females and one infant female  on board the vessel.

The situation is being managed by CBC with the assistance of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Cayman Islands Coast Guard.

“This situation is evolving and updates will be provided once they become available,” the CBC added.

The Cubans have been livestreaming their encounter with CBC and have said they will start a hunger strike if they are not allowed to leave.

Posted by Jouz Javier on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Update: At least one of the Cuban migrants on board the Panamanian ship has been transported to the shore at George Town Harbour.

The person, wearing a life vest, was transferred from the Bulk Freedom ship, which is moored off George Town, and brought to shore aboard a Port Authority boat.

The migrant, who reportedly was feeling unwell, was then placed in a white vehicle waiting at the George Town dock.

A number of boxes of supplies were put on board the Port Authority vessel which then returned to the ship. The migrants on board, via Facebook Live videos, had said they were in need of food and water.

Earlier story: Officers and vehicles from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, as well as a prison transport van, are waiting at the George Town Harbour dock for a group of Cuban migrants, who left Cayman over the weekend, to disembark from the Panamanian ship that picked them up as they drifted at sea.

A Cayman Islands Coast Guard vessel is currently alongside the Bulk Freedom cargo ship, and police and Customs and Border Control officers are aboard the bulk carrier. A Facebook Live video from the ship, posted by one of the migrants Javier Jouz Varona, shows police officers at the doorway of the recreation room in which the Cubans are gathered.

Posted by Jouz Javier on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

However, the Cubans are refusing to disembark and say they do not want to return to Cayman.

This photo posted by Javier Jouz Varona shows the Cubans and a baby involved in a standoff with Customs and Border Control officers aboard a ship off George Town. – Photo: Submitted

Javier Jouz Varona has been broadcasting live via Facebook from the ship since yesterday. In a message in Spanish, around 10am, he said, “We do not want to go back to the Cayman Islands. We do not want to talk to the government.

“We do not have food and water. We are hungry. One man has an injury on his leg and we are getting no medical attention for him.”

He added that he wanted the international media to “see what is happening in the Cayman Islands”.

The migrants were picked up by the passing ship after getting into difficulties on the boat in which they left Cayman.

On Sunday, Customs and Border Control discovered that the Cubans, who had been issued with monitoring bracelets, could not be located. The department was later notified that the Panamanian ship had picked up the Cubans from their drifting boat about 50 nautical miles west of Grand Cayman.

Once they disembark, the Cubans will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols.

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