Cubans keep coming
Saturday, December 9, 2006
A Cuban vessel reaches Cayman Brac Wednesday morning.
Uncertainty in Cuba about the health of its leader, Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since 26 July, has not stopped Cubans from trying to leave the communist island republic . And despite the controversial MOU they are still heading here.
A boat carrying twenty-five male Cubans was spotted off the northwest coast of Cayman Brac around 8:30 am Wednesday morning, 6 December, by Brac resident Raymond Scott.
The Cuban boat, which was roughly twenty-five feet long, continued round the west end of the Island and, around 9:00 am, it was tied up to a buoy opposite the Brac Reef Beach Resort, where the Cubans waited to speak to officials on the Island.
The Marine Enforcement vessel on the Brac is apparently under repairs and the Police boat has been out of service for four months. The hull of the vessel, which is sixteen years old, has termites and one cylinder of the engine is broken, Cayman Net News learned.
The Customs boat was not immediately available, and the Cubans waited until approximately 10:30 am for this vessel to be launched off the Channel Wharf Dock, close to where they were moored.
Immigration officials said the Cuban boat, which had a large motor, appeared to be in good condition.
The migrants were advised on the current Government policy by officials, and they chose to continue their journey to Honduras unassisted, leaving the Brac around 11:20 am.
Government policy, introduced in January 2005, states that migrants encountered in Cayman's territorial waters or who come ashore any of the three Islands are refused permission to land and are not given assistance to enable them to continue their journey.
This includes food, water and fuel, which officials are not allowed to provide for the Cubans under this policy.
The guidelines say that those able to depart immediately and wishing to do so are allowed to leave. Otherwise they will be detained and repatriated to Cuba.
Twenty-one Cubans reached Cayman shores last month, seven of whom continued, including a heavily pregnant woman, and twenty-five passed though these shores in October.
As Cubans continue to head for Florida, US Coast Guard interdiction statistics indicate that eighty-four Cubans were picked up in November and the same number in October.
Though this figure is down from 422 over the same period last year, it follows a fiscal year (October 2005 to October 2006) with the highest number of interdictions (2,810) since the mass migration in 1994.
Reports from the US Virgin Islands indicate that the number of Cuban nationals landing there has tripled from 2005 to 2006 and federal officials are keeping a close eye on the trend.
A 27 November article in St. John Tradewinds News quoted Ivan Ortiz, public affairs spokesperson for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as saying, "It's an area of concern, not only in the USVI but in Puerto Rico."
Last fiscal year, a total of 227 Cubans were reported entering the USVI, up three-fold from the FY 2005 total of 72, according to ICE statistics.
Under the US federal government's "wet foot-dry foot" policy, Cuban nationals who reach US soil are allowed to apply for admission, while those who are interdicted at sea are repatriated.
Meanwhile, Florida's Sun Sentinel reported 24 November that a network of organizations in South Florida is preparing for a major event in Cuba that could set off a mass migration or affect the region in some other way.
Among the organizations led by the American Red Cross of Greater Miami and The Keys and the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, there is speculation that Fidel Castro's recent illness and reports that his condition is terminal mean the group's network could soon be put into action.