Friday, March 24, 2006

No sign of missing Cubans

No sign of missing Cubans

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Cuban refugee vessel anchors off Cayman Brac
Tuesday morning

As nine more Cuban migrants pass through the Cayman Islands’ waters
Tuesday morning, authorities still appear to be scratching their heads
over the disappearance of 28 Cuban asylum seekers Sunday. The Cuban
escapees, who were being accommodated at the Breakers Civic Centre, had
permission to leave during the day but were expected to return in the

The missing Cubans include a group of 27 (eleven females, nine males and
seven children) who had arrived in Grand Cayman on 9 December, 2005.
Also missing is a Cuban man, Juan Guerra, who arrived on 13 April, 2005,
and subsequently spent almost a year incarcerated while he sought
political asylum in the Cayman Islands.

He was recently relocated to the centre from HMP Northward. They are not
the first Cuban migrants to disappear from Cayman custody. Washington
Post correspondent Mary Jordan alleged in a July 2004 article that nine
Cubans had bribed their way out of jail in the Cayman Islands and paid
smugglers to take them to Honduras.

From an interview in Honduras with Cuban migrant Luis Machado
Hernandez, Ms Jordan told the story of his group’s journey from Cuba and
the alleged bribery incident.

The Washington Post reported that, in the Cayman Islands, “They were
caught, locked up and told they would be returned to Cuba. After a few
days, their relatives from Spain and the United States arrived.

“One of the men was allowed to fly to Spain, and the American relatives
paid bribes to get the eight others freed after 28 days in jail. They
also paid $10,000 to a smuggler to carry the men the rest of the way to
Honduras. “It was a miracle,” Mr Machado was quoted as saying.

“We had seconds’ notice that we were leaving. We just ran out of jail.”
The article continued: “They set off in the smugglers’ 30-foot boat the
first week of June. Before dawn on their fifth day at sea, Machado said,
the smugglers suddenly announced that they were just off the Honduran
coast and that the Cubans should jump.”

Mr Machado then told Ms Jordan that the smugglers said, “Go! Swim!” and
sped off.

The nine Cubans that arrived Tuesday anchored off the north coast of
Cayman Brac, at the end of Sandpiper Drive in Stake Bay Point. A customs
vessel with immigration and customs officers arrived around 8:00 am to
communicate with those on board.

According to a Government press release, the wooden craft departed
Cayman waters in accordance with the occupants’ expressed wish to
continue their journey.

Initially found drifting in their small boat, the group managed to
repair the engine for their wooden craft, which according to reports
appeared to be seaworthy.

A Customs boat monitored the vessel’s departure out of Cayman waters.

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