Cubans released as HRC challenges detention

| 16/07/2018 | 55 Comments

(CNS): The government has confirmed that it is overturning the policy of detaining all Cuban migrants who chose to land in local waters, regardless of their status, and the Department of Immigration (DOI) has determined that some detainees will be released from the detention facility pending the results of their legal matters. Given the length of time it is taking to finalise the immigration statuses for some Cubans migrants, on Friday three of them were released from the Immigration Detention Centre to approved accommodation provided by the DOI.

Cayman Islands Immigration Detention Centre

Officials said that a risk assessment was conducted on the detainees and they have also been fitted with electronic tags.

“Although the detainees do not pose a threat to the community, in an effort to ensure public safety as a top priority, the detainees will be fitted with an electronic monitoring device, which we will use to observe their whereabouts and verify that they are complying with the rules of their release,” said Acting Chief Immigration Officer Gary Wong.

The three individuals released from the facility have all been there for more than two years — the longest time among the thirteen detainees currently at the IDC.

The announcement about this first group to be released follows a visit by the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission to the facility last week as a result of a hunger strike by a group of Cuban men, which has now ended. After the visit, HRC Chair James Austin-Smith wrote to the heads of both the prison service and immigration questioning the blanket detention of Cuban migrants. He listed a catalog of other issues, including unsanitary and filthy conditions at the centre where the people were being held.

The Cayman government treats all Cubans that end up in Cayman waters as economic migrants unless they apply for political asylum. The government policy is to detain them, and subsequently repatriate them under the terms of the memorandum of understanding with Havana, if they need assistance. But if they can continue with their journey without assistance, they are permitted to do so.

A number of Cubans currently in the Cayman Islands, some of whom have now been in dentition for more than two years, have applied for asylum, claiming that they are members of the unofficial opposition Cuban National Party (PNC). If they were given asylum here, this would make them political refugees in Cayman but with no rights to travel to the United States.

Until January 2017, when it was ended by Obama, the long-standing ‘wet-foot, dry-foot’ policy of the US, gave any Cuban migrant that reaches US soil the right to remain indefinitely.

The prolonged detention of these asylum seekers (in some cases over two years) by the Cayman Islands authorities has raised questions about the treatment of possible political refugees. In the letter the HRC queried the policy of detention, which the government had recently accepted needed to be reviewed.

“The commission has previously expressed concerns regarding the government’s policy to detain every illegal migrant at the Centre without consideration of their individual circumstances and the risk that they pose,” Austin-Smith wrote as he asked for an explanation for their detention. “Can you please provide the Commission with an explanation for this blanket policy and clarify why consideration has not been given to assessing each detainee to determine the necessity for detention in accordance with the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees?”

In response, the first three migrants have now been released. Last week government admitted that it was considering what options are available to deal with Cuban migrants, especially those claiming asylum. In a statement immigration authorities had said, “Given the inordinate delay in finalising the detainees’ immigration status, the acting chief immigration officer has agreed to review the continued detention of the migrants.”

As well as pressing the authorities about the unjustified blanket detention of the Cubans, the HRC revealed that they do not have access to news and online media and questioned why their phones are confiscated.

“There is no access to cellular telephones and whilst at the facility the Commission observed one being confiscated from a detainee. Can you please provide the Commission with reason for detainees being unable to possess cellular telephones?” Smith asked.

He also asked why detainees have no access to news or media, whether in print form or via the internet, in Spanish. The commission said it had begun to explore creating a library at the IDC, but called on the authorities to provide detainees with access to news in their own language.

The HRC said there was no evidence of a sprinkler system and some of the bathrooms and toilets are dirty, mouldy, unhygienic and broken, noting the “completely unhygienic fridges, freezers and cooking areas, including rotten food with infestation of flies”.

It appears that the detainees are provided with cleaning materials and expected to clean the centre themselves. While the commission said it spoke with the detainees during the visit about doing their part, “the extensive nature of the unsanitary conditions” means that the government “must take steps to rectify this situation before the facility becomes uninhabitable and a further health risk”.

Prison Director Steve Barrett told the HRC in response to their concerns that he was engaging local contractors to ensure repairs were undertaken and that the bathroom and kitchen areas would be deep cleaned.

He said that in future the prison team would ensure that the detainees were taking care of and cleaning the areas they use. Barrett said that fixed line phones were provided and that cell phones were taken from the detainees for security purposes, and that he was looking into acquiring a Spanish language TV channel for the migrants.

However, Barrett said he was no able to comment on the policy of blanket detention as it was not within his remit.

See the letters referred to in the CNS Library

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Comments (55)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    They should get hold of the ‘Ritch report’, that would make CIG moving faster.

    And yet, living in filth, vs. cleaning after themselves clearly demonstrates the “quality” of detainees. Young, healthy men must be able to fix small plumbing problems as well.
    Do you want unskilled, pardon me, pigs to be your neighbors who prefer to drown in $hit than clean after themselves?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again… when will we ever learn… sad…Sad …. yet again for us. We in a big mess.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The conditions at that detention centre in terms of building structure and facilities is no different from those of Northward Prison and Fairbanks. The only difference here is that the Cubans have kept the place nasty and unsanitary i assume deliberately in order for this very exact thing to happen (them being released due human rights violation etc). I dont want to believe that people really are as nasty and discussing to allow their kitchen and bath area to get to the state described in the news.

    This is not a good precedent for the Cayman Islands to be setting. I am sure that even before the ink dried on the paper work for this decision word has already hit Cuba and the people will come.

    CNS , didnt Obama cancel The Wet Foot Dry foot policy?

    CNS: Apologies! You’re right. Obama ended the policy in January 2017. I’ll tweak the article.

    • Anonymous says:

      1. The conditions at Northward and Fairbanks are “barely fit for human habitation” (even for prisoners) according to the last two inspections.
      2. The people detained for years at the IDC are not convicted criminals. They are asylum-seekers who risked their lives to leave Cuba.

      Say what you want about their motives they were clearly desperate and, in any event, should not be treated like criminals. Apart from anything else, its unlawful to do so.

      • Anonymous says:

        We do not know whether or not they are convicted criminals. That is the point we know nothing for sure about these people!

        Many have risk their lives leaving Cuba merely for economic reasons !!

  4. Bertie :B says:

    estan todos jodidos ahora mis amigos

  5. The watcher says:

    I sit back, pour another rum and smile from afar. You voted them in, no one else can be blamed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree with this at all. Bad policy decision! Ankle monitors….oh please!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Oh goody, soon they will be working among us, telling the same stories every day, about how great Cuba is..

  8. Anonymous says:

    The horse is out of the barn. The precedent is set.

    Cubans are anything but stupid. Be prepared to what is to come.

    Probably the most dysfunctional country in the world that drowns in its own $hit. Figuratively and literally.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Unless things have changed since I last visited the IDC it is self-catering so the Cubans in the place are responsible for preparing their own meals and normal day-to-day domestic chores like keeping the place clean.

    Apparently what Mr. Austin-Smith found was that the Cuban detainees themselves had not been bothering to clean their own facilities for some time. He is quoted as saying, “The detainees are provided with cleaning materials to clean these areas after their use, this has clearly not been done.”

    Or in plain English it is self-inflicted. The bottom line on the HRC report is that most, if not all, of this is probably down to the inmates themselves rather than the authorities. It’s nothing new – this tactic has been used for decades (blocking toilets has always been a favourite ploy) to try and discredit prisons or holding facilities like the IDC.

  10. Anonymous says:

    civil service incompetence at its best…

  11. Boom says:

    So can jamaicans come here and do that?

    • Anonymous says:

      Nope. They are not mostly blonde hair, fair complexion, and people with colored eyes.

      So if Jamaicans came here on a canoe ir raft looking for better life, we send them straight to Northward Prison. And if they want to work here, they must get a work permit!

      Jamaicans just like Cubans have it hard economically.

    • Anonymous says:

      “So can jamacian come here and do that???!!! ”
      They already has every thing here blocked up!!!!!! Shame…

  12. Henry says:

    Wait until news hit Cuba that we are releasing them. Be prepared Cayman the Cuban exodus will begin and more and more reliance will be on the people of these islands.

  13. Elvis says:

    Better get ready for the junk boats arriving again soon then, what a crock of bad decisions and Delay’s by govt.
    you couldn’t make this s@@t up, 2 years of paying overtime to people to man idc then let them go ?
    Woooo hoooooo

  14. Anonymous says:

    This whole situation is ridiculous. They should A. have been sent back 2 years ago B. If they had to be kept here it shouldn’t have taken 2 years. They came here illegally and nothing is known about them. They could be criminals or something. Can’t this government just do something right for a change?

    • Anonymous says:

      7:97 pm, the governments head is where their ass is. They rather spend money on regugees than take care of their own. What has been wasted on them could’ve built how many low income homes? Stop bending backwards for all of those people, because we would be that fortunate if we landed in CUBA. We wouldn’t be able to make any demands.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Someone please tell me is there anything that this government has done that hasn’t turned to dog sh!t?

    We have elected the most useless group of people possible. Completely USELESS the lot of them!!

    • Anonymous says:

      All the worst sh!t seems to be in areas the almighty Alden is directly responsible for.

      • GOAB 4th Flr says:

        Typical poor leadership from Alden and poor decisions by ministry officials that run immigration department. No surprise at all.

    • The watcher says:

      The only people to blame are the only people allowed to vote …. Just sayin

  16. Anonymous says:

    The beginning of the end for Caymanians as they were once known. Miami soon, better start learning Spanish soon it will be the only language.

    • What would your Jesus do? says:

      Because in Miami, the only spoken language is Spanish, right? Stupid comment.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think @3:39 is making the comparison to “Little Havana” in Miami.. Sort of like “Little Kingston” on Eastern Avenue.

        • Anonymous says:

          7:45 Not just ‘Little Havana’, I’ve had to use my very limited Spanish to order things in Miami tourist hotels and bars because the staff don’t speak English. But what the heck? I can think of a few bars in GT where it’s been like that for years.

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually, yeah it is as far as I can tell.

  17. E. Nygma says:

    Its almost as if regardless of whether you think they should be given asylum or sent back to Cuba, it should not have taken for some of them 2 years of being locked up and starving themselves to get a response from the Government

  18. Anonymous says:

    Send them all back home asap!

  19. Anonymous says:

    What is wrong with sending them home?

  20. Immigration Czar says:

    All refugees and illegally landed immigrants like the Cubans should be returned to their country of origin within 60 days. No exceptions or excuses.

    Cayman cannot accommodate not afford housing and security protocols for such foreign nationals.
    Cayman can barely afford to assist its own citizens much less importing or taking on the responsibility of foreign nationals like the Cuban detainees and other refugees or those persons seeking asylum.

    • Anonymous says:

      That would be contrary to international law. If that’s what you have in mind Cayman would need first to obtain independence from the UK then refuse to comply with international law and participate in the workings of the UN, UNHCR etc.

      Although, if we can “barely afford to assist our own citizens” now it might be tricky then too.

      • Anonymous says:

        12:30 pm, how much funding has the U.K. UN, or UNHCR provided over the many years towards refugees in the Cayman Islands? Taxpayers are paying all of their expenses. The Human Rights committee, should advocate for funding not for more liability on government.

  21. Anonymous says:

    How the Government sees it. – Oh crap, more refugees, let’s put them someplace and how no-one will think of them so we don’t have to worry about it.

    How Caymanians see it. – Seriously.. WTF, Ship them out we have our own problems.

    How the World sees it. – More refugee issues.. oh well.

    How Cuba sees it. – Meh, light my cigar Fernando.

    How the Cubans see it. – Oh boy Cayman, if we can’t get what we want at home we can get what we want from the gullible Cayman Government.

    How it goes down. – I want I want I want… *throws tamtrum* I get I get I get.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sooo… People complained about NAU getting more funds for the Caymanians in need but now we can afford to pay rental, food and I assume health coverage for illegal immigrants? Boy only Caymanians can’t prosper in the Cayman Islands! What a mess! Guess unna Caymanians better go on hunger strike and demand jobs and equal rights!

  22. Anonymous says:

    What is the test to prove PNC membership? It’s not like they hand out underground political photo ID cards.

  23. Born Here says:

    There should be a policy that if government detains a migrant seeking asylum for more than 2 years AUTOMATICALLY they attain asylum.

    In the U.S. once they land on U.S. soil they attain asylum. So at least we should have a provision aligned to their efforts. If we are so slow in processing them and it last for more than 2 years, at least out of fairness and sufferance, we should give them asylum status.

    My 2 cent

    • Anonymous says:

      They can’t do that because it sends a message to everyone saying, ILLEGALLY enter into the country and stay long enough and you get granted the right to stay automatically.

      Do you.. can you comprehend the influx of illegal immigration there would be? That is why the US has the issues it does now. Illegals were granted status and now they are fighting for increase rights to ILLEGALS. Fostering a culture of reward the criminal.

      • Anonymous says:

        Except the only way they would stay long enough to get that right granted is if the government takes that amount of time to process their asylum application. Meaning it would be up to government to figure out a way to process the applications in a timely manner, not up to the migrants to determine how long they want to stay.

        • Anonymous says:

          I would shorten it to 1 year if we detain someone for that length of time

        • Anonymous says:

          @4:16 that is true but as you can see, can we really trust the government NOT to take that amount of time to make a decision? Our government flip flops like no other with their out of sight out of mind mentality. None of them had the balls at the beginning to ship them out of allow them to stay. And now, as is the government’s way, their inaction has forced a cop out decision.

        • Anonymous says:

          When they were brought ashore, Cayman was not their final place of landing. They wanted to continue their journey, and that is what should’ve happened.

    • Anonymous says:

      2:27pm, and if they are criminals, how do we a certain their true status (criminals or PNC)? Hello, are we understanding devious people?

  24. Anonymous says:

    What a complete clusterf*ck.

  25. Concerned Citizen says:

    So people from Cuba seeking economic advantage (so its claimed) can arrive here ILLEGALLY. And we know little about them. For all we know they could be criminals, working for the Castro government, or worse terrorist!



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