Friday, September 29, 2006

Cubans try to leave illegally

Cubans try to leave illegally

Friday, September 29, 2006

A suspected incidence of human smuggling was thwarted when three Cuban
nationals trying to leave the Cayman Islands illegally attempted to
board the wrong aircraft, sources have informed Cayman Net News.

According to one source, an employee of Cayman Airways Limited has
allegedly been suspended following this incidence and is suspected of
helping the Cubans try to leave by air.

The men, who did not speak English, became confused at the airport and,
with several planes on the tarmac, they tried to board the wrong one and
were subsequently apprehended, Net News was told.

Cayman Airways CEO, Mike Adam, declined to comment on whether a member
of his staff had been suspended in regards to this incident, explaining
that the matter was under investigation by immigration.

Assistant Chief Immigration Officer Jeannie Lewis confirmed that three
Cuban nationals have been remanded pending an investigation, although
she declined to comment on whether a CAL employee was also under

She said that the three Cubans - all men - were legally resident on the
Island as visitors. They have been in custody since the incidence and
will appear in court again on 10 October.

Ms Lewis indicated that they were not aware of incidents in the past of
Cubans trying to leave illegally by air.

Several Cuban migrants have "disappeared" from the Cayman Islands this
year, however. On 22 March, twenty-eight Cubans - eleven females, ten
males and seven children - escaped from Grand Cayman, while waiting a
decision on an application for political asylum, and reached the US in

While details of the escape from the Cayman Islands were never revealed,
newspaper reports in Honduras indicated that they arrived there by boat
on Thursday 23 March.

The Cubans told Honduran authorities that they left from CamagŸey in
Cuba on the 12 of March. They were given a visa for 30 days to remain in
Honduras, but headed north to the US.

There were no reports in the Cayman Islands about how the Cubans managed
to find passage or purchase a vessel to leave this country.

One of the escapees, Juan Guerra, was later asked by Net News if it was
difficult to apply for asylum.
"The immigration officers always try by any means to make sure that you
do not apply for political asylum," he replied.

"Once I applied for political asylum, they told me that my time had
expired to apply when, in fact, they had never given me the opportunity
to apply at the beginning or have an interview with any immigration

However, Mr Guerra's family in New York, who knew the political problems
he had in Cuba, found a lawyer that would represent him. When he was
interviewed for refugee status, his lawyer, James Austin Smith from
Walkers, was present.

"The proper treatment needs to be given to the Cubans when they want to
apply for political asylum," said Mr Guerra.

He claimed that, on occasions, the Cubans deported to Cuba are
incarcerated for very long times simply because they don't have a lawyer
to represent them in the Cayman Islands.

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