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Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly

Posted By: Marty

Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/08/07 03:26 AM

Fleeing Cubans land among the cruise ships in Grand Cayman
Published on Wednesday, March 7, 2007 Email To Friend Print Version


By John Evans, Cayman Net News

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands: Eleven Cubans, nine men and two women, fled their country and braved rough seas in a makeshift boat to sail into George Town harbour in Grand Cayman last Friday.


On their way to Honduras, the Cubans restart their vessel and wave goodbye to Grand Cayman. Photo by John Evans
They had made the journey from Cuba through waters off Cayman Brac, where they had been sighted on Thursday afternoon. Early Friday morning, they were spotted heading west by residents in South Sound, Grand Cayman.

At 9:30 am they were greeted at George Town’s North Terminal - used by millions of cruise shippers - not as welcomed guests but as an embarrassment to the assembled officials.

In the past, these landings have taken place well away from the main tourist areas but, by design or luck, this latest arrival took place under the scrutiny of hundreds of visiting tourists.

With their hands tied by the terms of the Cayman Island’s notorious Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cuba, Immigration Officers were forced to give the refugees two simple choices – land and be repatriated or continue on your way with no help.

The MOU dictates that no assistance of any sort be given to Cuban migrants who choose to continue their journey. In the past this has been applied to the letter, with boats being denied basic supplies like water, food and fuel. However, under the watchful eyes of local media and cruise shippers, the officials gave some assistance to the boat people.

After initial discussion, a crate of bottled water was provided. Seven of the refugees were then allowed ashore while the other four completed repairs to a broken propeller shaft.

All the time, George Town was full of tourists. Many of them stopped to ask what all the fuss was about and to take photographs.

The reaction of those who found out what was happening reflected shock and disbelief. A couple from Canada said they could not believe that a British colony would treat refugees in this way. They questioned the legality of the action and the credibility of the UK government.

Visitors from the USA added that they now viewed the Cayman Islands in a completely different light. For them, the picture they had on arrival of an idyllic vacation resort had been shattered.

On the dockside and along the road, sympathy for the Cubans was clearly evident. People whose cruise ship had sailed through rough weather the night before, marvelled at the fact the Cubans had reached George Town safely and expressed concern that the Cayman Islands Government was planning to force the refugees to continue their journey.

Women openly wept when they heard what was happening, people protested to the officials present and tried to provide assistance.

On the boat, the Cubans set about making repairs, baling out water and getting ready for the next leg of the journey – over 400 miles to Honduras.

On shore, local taxi drivers tried to provide food. Immigrations officers agreed to allow it through, but there were delays. People tried to pass money and clothing to those on the boat but these were not let through. One concerned person obtained the telephone number of the parents of one of the refugees, then called them to say he was safe.

As the repairs neared completion, the officials appeared to be deciding to hurry matters along. Tourists collected money to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was passed to the boat. More bottles of water arrived, and even hats and a pair of sunglasses were brought to the travellers.

With the repairs complete, the boat’s engine was started and it made a short test run round Hog Sty Bay before picking up the last passengers.

Almost exactly at 1:00 pm, escorted by the port patrol boat and waved on by a crowd of well wishers, nine of the Cubans set out to try and reach freedom while their two companions, who had decided to stay, were led away by Immigration officers.

Amongst those observing events were many Cubans - passengers on a visiting cruise ship - who themselves had fled the Castro regime in improvised boats. One man told Cayman Net News that he had reached Florida in 1963 after making the journey in a small boat. He wished the departing refugees a safe voyage. “With God’s will they are going to reach Honduras, but I fear you are sending them to their deaths,” he said sadly.

Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/08/07 04:04 PM

Not a fan of U.S. policy toward Cuba, but I am certainly no fan of Cuba either. Cuba is to be commended for its disaster response and medical establishment, but these are pin-points of light in a dark dark land.

Unfortunately, if Chavez's oil wealth dries-up we will see the same thing in Venezuela.

You can only blame the Caymans for so much here. CARICOM nations are forced to deal with anti-American sentiment and take sides between warring ideologies in the region. Not fair, but that's the game. It's a bad idea to alienate the U.S. and a bad idea to alienate Castro/Chavez if you want to have credibility in the region. Catch-22 for smaller nations like Belize and the BWI.

You can blame the West for starving Cuba, but this is a bad argument. Socialism doesn't work people.
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/08/07 06:39 PM

Well said, O. Concise and accurate!
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/08/07 07:17 PM

Well stated Otter!

It's the US though that is usually blamed, not the West.
Posted By: Bobber

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/08/07 07:42 PM

I also would like to see normalized relations with Cuba. the nationalization of US assets in Cuba, and even the missile crisis are far in the past and should be relegated to the history bin. Unfortunately, as long as the socialist government is in power (and Castro), this probably won't happen.
Posted By: 2MILESNORTHOFCUT

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/09/07 12:31 AM

Any one who gets up to Tranquility resort AKA Tackle Box north (Near turtle mans place and Robels point) Take a look at the homemade Cuban boat that is on the shore by the dock. I was told that some Cuban refugees ran it on the reef and got deported. The construction of the boat is interesting, very crude but usable, Check it out someday.
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/09/07 03:06 PM

I said something that SIN and Rykat both agree with???

Let me check the book of Revelations -- I'm sure there's something in there about this moment.

smile
Posted By: KC Jayhawk

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/09/07 04:08 PM

Otter, I saw a movie about this phenomenon once, called "When Worlds Collide". shocked
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/09/07 07:02 PM

But isn't China a communist state? Oh, I forgot they will be the next world power, we all should be nice to them (even despite their obvious human rights violations). General Tzao's chicken anyone?
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/09/07 07:24 PM

Ahh, but what changes have they embraced that have allowed them to be interpreted as the next world power? Hint: It ain't communism.
Posted By: CatMo

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/10/07 02:28 AM

Careful there Otter. You start throwing logic and reality around like that and some folks are gonna' revert to their roots.
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/10/07 04:00 PM

Sorry CatMo. Habit. smile
Posted By: Sun&sand

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/10/07 04:31 PM

I am feeling very sad for these people. They are victims, and are treated like criminals. I pray they reach Honduras safely, and they can begin a life of freedom.
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Fleeing Cubans land in Caymans, sent off quickly - 03/12/07 07:24 PM

Cuba will be open soon and we will all see really poor ghettos formed (with extreme poverty) and really nice million dollar mansions (with extreme luxury) on the beach and of course the hotel zone and basically a duplicate of Cancun/Montego Bay (McDonald's, Domino's etc..).

With all the extreme poverty and close proximity to the US, Cuba may see even more economic refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.

SIN
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