Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Cubans try to slip out of the island,

Posted on Monday, 10.10.11

More Cubans try to slip out of the island

Authorities in Cayman have detained 19 men after they landed on the
island from Cuba.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Authorities in the Cayman Islands just south of Cuba have detained 19
Cuban boatpeople in the fifth similar incident since February, compared
to none in 2010, according to a local news report.

The arrivals in Cayman belayed an El Nuevo Herald report Sunday that the
number of Cubans escaping their country by sea had more than doubled in
the past year — and reversed a three-year old downward trend.

The Cayman News Service (CNS) reported Saturday that the 19 Cubans were
detained by immigration authorities after their boat ran aground in the
British-run banking center 125 miles south of Cuba.

An anonymous comment attached to CNS' online version of the report noted
that another Cuban boat was on its way to the Cayman Islands but gave no
further details.

A Cayman government statement said the 19, all men, were put under the
control of immigration officials and were receiving assistance but gave
no further details.

CNS reported it was the fifth boat with Cuban migrants aboard to reach
Cayman territorial waters this year, compared to zero last year.

Sixteen Cubans aboard one vessel landed in February, and 21 others were
spotted in another boat in March. Two of them opted to land, but the
other 19 continued their trip.

Most of the Cubans who arrive in the Cayman Islands report they were
headed to Honduras when their vessels broke down. They would travel by
land from there to Mexico, and then try to cross into the United States.

El Nuevo reported that the number of undocumented Cubans who were
intercepted at sea by U.S. authorities or reached U.S. shores in the
past 12 months more than doubled from the previous one-year period, from
831 to 1,700. Those figures had been dropping steadily since 2007.

Cuba's economy remains listless despite ruler Raúl Castro's promises of
reforms, Havana residents told El Nuevo, and more people are deciding to
escape. Cubans who want to leave require a government exit permit.

Until Cayman's policies were tightened in 2005, local officials and
residents could provide water, gas and food to the Cuban boatpeople, and
even fix their motors and sails, so they could continue their voyages.

But now they cannot provide any aid and must stop the boats if they are
not seaworthy. Cuban migrants in seaworthy boats can decide if they want
to continue their trips, or go ashore and face deportations back to Cuba.

Some of the Cubans have asked for political asylum, but few have
obtained it. Of the 1,200 who arrived during the "Rafter Crisis" of 1994
— when more than 35,000 Cubans took to the seas — only 20 won asylum.

Cubans have complained that Cayman officials discourage them from asking
for asylum and give them little opportunity to prove their cases. Few
immigration lawyers there speak Spanish, they add.

Comments attached to the online version of CNS' report on the latest
Cuban arrivals reflected a split in opinions in the Cayman Islands, a
three-island territory with a long tradition of seafaring.

"It is just a waste of time to process them as criminals," wrote one
person anonymously. "That is what you do with illegal landers from
elsewhere like Jamaica and Honduras — not Cubans looking for a better life!"

Others wrote that the small boats were too risky, and that helping
Cubans would spark an avalanche of other boatpeople.

"You are encouraging them to come here by the hundreds and thousands.
They will see Cayman like a transit to the United States. How will we be
able to manage hundreds or thousands of women and children?" wrote
another person.


No comments:

Post a Comment