Monday, February 27, 2006

Cuban asylum seeker released from prison

Cuban asylum seeker released from prison

Juan Guerra has been
seeking political asylum
since he landed here in
April 2005
Friday, February 24, 2006

The Cuban refugee who conducted a demonstration in Cayman Brac last year
and is seeking political asylum, has been released from Northward Prison
after 10 months in custody.

Even though the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, (UNHCR)
says refugees should not be kept in detention, it has been common
practice here in the Cayman Islands for Cubans to be kept in jail.

However Juan Guerra is now being housed in the Breakers Civic Centre
with 27 other men, women and children and he is permitted to leave the
centre for most of the day, but he said he must return at night.

He is the only Cuban from his original group that is still here in
Cayman as the others that he travelled with have been returned to Cuba.

Mr Guerra is 41 and is a member of a political party in Cuba that is
lobbying for human rights, but these activities are illegal in his
country. Mr Guerra acknowledged that he and his companions were risking
their lives, but his situation in Cuba was desperate.

“I could not go out in public, because of my political situation,” Mr
Guerra told Cayman Net News.

“Many times I would be seen in a public place and the police would bring
me in and detain me because they were afraid I would speak to other
people about our political party.” Mr Guerra explained that his
political party is illegal, because it is against the Government system
and because the party demonstrates for human rights.

“They had also caught six of my friends and I thought maybe one of them
would give my name and I would be next,” he said.

“And when they put you in jail it is a long process before you are

When Mr Guerra’s family in the US obtained information that he was in
the Cayman Islands, they immediately found a Cayman lawyer for him. But
the process of seeking political asylum is a lengthy one and since he
has arrived over 100 Cubans have been repatriated.

Mr Guerra’s initial application for asylum has been denied by the Chief
Immigration Officer but is currently under appeal by the Immigration

Mr Guerra said that some Cubans do not have the patience for the process
and believe that it would be quicker to be returned to Cuba so they can
try again and hopefully make it to Honduras that time.

So some Cubans choose to go back to Cuba when their friends are being
repatriated. During the ten months he has been here, Mr Guerra says he
has seen one group of Cubans three times.

After the demonstration in Cayman Brac, Mr Guerra and his companions
were escorted to Grand Cayman under heavy guard by the RCIPS.

Mr Guerra said however that it was a peaceful demonstration and they
only wanted to notify their families that they were alive.

“We were not able to communicate with our families and we wanted our
families to know that we’re still alive,” he said.

“There was another group of 19 Cubans that arrived before us and we got
together and we went into the town. It was a peaceful demonstration. At
no time did we intend on any violence or want to harm anyone. We went to
a big church because we wanted the support of the Christian community,”
he said.

Mr Guerra said that throughout his incarceration at HMP Northward, he
has been treated with courtesy and has become friends with numerous
guards including John Miller who speaks fluent Spanish. He also has been
learning English and received excellent medical care at the Cayman
Islands Hospital.

In 1989, Mr Guerra was riding in a train that collided with another and
injured his left leg, which never healed properly.

No comments: