Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cayman Islands patrol allows Cubans to sail to Honduras


Cayman Islands patrol allows Cubans to sail to Honduras

The boat, with 22 refugee-seekers aboard, was headed to Honduras.
By Juan O. Tamayo

A boat carrying 22 Cuban refuge-seekers was intercepted by a Cayman
Islands patrol craft, but all were in good shape and were allowed to
continue on their way to Honduras, according to a news report Tuesday.

The Cayman News Service reported that Immigration Department officials
had confirmed the 20 men and two women from the eastern Cuba town of
Manzanillo were spotted Sunday evening off Cayman Brac island, part of
the Caribbean archipelago.

The passengers were in good health and after making "minor repairs" to
their boat, they continued their trip south-west toward Honduras,
according to the report. From Honduras they would go by land to the
Mexican border with the United States.

The report did not detail what type of repairs the boat needed — which
determines how Cuban migrants are treated when they are spotted in the
territorial waters of the British-run international banking center 125
miles south of Cuba.

Since 2005, Cubans in bad health or in boats that are not seaworthy are
detained in the Cayman Islands, while healthy migrants in fit vessels
are allowed to continue on their trips. Those forced ashore can apply
for asylum, which is almost never granted.

Before then, Cayman officials and residents were allowed to the
refuge-seekers with food, water and gasoline, and even to make major
repairs to their vessels, so they could continue on their journeys.

The number of Cubans spotted in Cayman waters has been increasing in the
past year, apparently because the communist-ruled government's embrace
of some mild market-type economic reforms has caused food prices to
spike and cut into government services.

Five groups of Cubans were spotted in Cayman waters in 2011, compared to
none the previous year. Almost all were deported to their home country,
with the last batch of 16 flown back to Cuba two weeks ago after their
requests for asylum were denied.

But Rafael Hidalgo Figueredo and Fernando Figueredo Corrales, both in
their 30s, escaped from an Immigration Department lockup on Jan. 21 and
have not been found, according to published reports.

A Cayman publication, The Cay Compass, published an editorial earlier
this month urging a review of the agreement with the Cuban government
that bars officials and residents from helping the migrants.

"Most Caymanians would like to offer emergency provisions and send the
Cubans along on their journey to freedom," the editorial noted.

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