Saturday, March 23, 2013

Illegal Cuban migrants slip from Turks into Miami

Posted on Saturday, 03.23.13

Illegal Cuban migrants slip from Turks into Miami
By Juan O. Tamayo

Sixteen illegal Cuban migrants have slipped out of the Turks and Caicos
Islands as mysteriously as they arrived, and at least a dozen have been
delivered to Miami by what authorities suspect is a people-smuggling ring.

The Miami arrivals include the mother and other relatives of Oakland
Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who told ESPN last week that he
was ecstatic after having just seen her for the first time since he
defected in 2011.

Clara Gardiner, in charge of the Turks and Caicos' Ministry of
Immigration and Border Control, said Thursday that authorities are
investigating the Cubans' escape but that she did not know when the
inquiry would be completed.

The Cubans' disappearance points to the existence of a ring suspected of
smuggling Cubans and Haitians westward through the Bahamas and to
Florida, according to officials in the Turks and Caicos, a British-run
territory about 250 miles northeast of Cuba.

The case started when a Turks and Caicos coastal radar detected a speed
boat coming out of Cuba in October, according to two detailed reports on
the Cubans by the territory's Sun newspaper. Authorities followed it to
a waterfront mansion in the Discovery Bay area of Providenciales, the
third largest island in the territory.

Police detained a total of 25 illegal Cuban migrants in the rented
mansion and other parts of the island chain, the Sun reported, including
Cespedes' mother, Estela Milanes Salazar, three children, a
seven-month-old baby and her 17-year-old mother.

Some of the Cubans had fake Turks and Caicos stamps on their passports.
One told authorities that she had arrived more than three months
earlier, according to the newspaper. Most appeared to have arrived by
speed boat.

The four children and their two mothers stayed with a Cuban doctor
legally in the Turks and Caicos, and the rest were taken to the Five
Cays Detention Centre, where Milanes and nine others asked for political
asylum. It's not clear what happened to the others.

A judge ordered the 10 Cubans freed in January, after their attorney
complained that conditions at the detention center were terrible and
that one of the women had suffered a miscarriage for lack of medical
attention. They had to post a $20,000 guarantee and report to police
once a week.

Prosecutors opposed the request, arguing that the Cubans had requested
asylum only after they were found by police, that not all asylum
applicants were legitimate and that the Cubans would be free to slip out
of the Turks and Caicos illegally.

Authorities believe that smugglers spirited the 16 Cubans out of the
Turks and Caicos aboard speed boats. "Based on what we've seen so far,
this is an extremely well-organized operation," the Sun quoted one law
enforcement source as saying.

The ESPN report on March 12 noted that Cespedes had just returned to
Oakland As' spring training camp in Phoenix after seeing his mother and
11 other family members in Miami for the first time since he defected in

ESPN reported that Cespedes, speaking through an interpreter, Oakland
coach Ariel Prieto, said his 12 family members had left Cuba illegally
more than one year ago for the United States but was "vague" on details.

He mentioned a stop in the Dominican Republic — southeast of the British
islands — and claimed they had been "released" from the Turks and
Caicos, according to the ESPN report.

Cespedes said his mother, now 44, was a pitcher on the Cuban Olympic
softball team and could throw an 80 mph fastball.

Four Cuban women detained in the Bahamas as illegal migrants said,
meanwhile, that they have declared a hunger strike to block plans to
send them back to the communist-run island, according to the blog Diario
de Cuba.

The women are among the 33 Cubans who arrived illegally in the Bahamas
in different groups in recent months and are being held in the Nassau
Detention Center. Bahamas authorities usually repatriate almost all
Cuban migrants detained there.

No comments:

Post a Comment