November 15, 2018

The Editor Speaks: Hunger strikes

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Hunger strikes are not new. They have been going on for centuries. It’s one of the few ways prisoners can draw attention to themselves and their plight. It’s normally an act of desperation.

Occasionally, here in the Cayman Islands, we have the odd person going on a hunger strike. The most notable case being Dr Luis M Luarca, a Cuban refugee, who in 2006 began a hunger strike. He wasn’t a prisoner.

He camped outside the Government Administration Building, on the lawn, with several changes of clothing, bottled water, a folding bed and an umbrella. He wasn’t going to eat but he still wanted his other comforts. His demands were:
monetary compensation from the of Health for the years he was unable to work in the medical profession, as well as the position of security officer at the Cayman Islands Government Hospital; a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, or at least a promise from the that they will make arrangements for such a meeting; and that there will be an improvement in the human rights situation in the Cayman Islands.

He was not successful.

Now we have another one, but on a much larger scale, detainees, and the common denominator – Cuban.

We, in the media, have known about the hunger strike since the beginning of the month but until yesterday (11) the government couldn’t have been aware of it as up until yesterday they made no statement.

Their statement differed slightly from what we knew, saying there were originally eight (we were told nine), who refused regular meals provided by the Immigration Detention Centre (). Now it is down to four.

Nowhere in the government statement does it call it a hunger strike as the IDC claim “the detainees are refusing meals provided by the facility, but are known to be eating personal food items.”

The statement goes on to say, “Although cellular devices are not allowed within the facility due to safety and security concerns, detainees have managed to get access to social media.

“The migrants held at the IDC do have access to external communication that is provided and coordinated by IDC management.

“Contrary to reports, two landline telephones are available for use within the facility, one of which is always fully operational and the second landline was returned to service Monday morning.

“The officers with HMCIPS and the DOI will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the well-being of all detainees is properly maintained.”

And finally, “Due to the sensitive nature of the situation, further details will not be made available until matters are decided by Government on the best way forward.”

Of course, silence by government is always due to “sensitive” matters.

Some of the detainees have been held here for over two years. Nine of them are seeking asylum here.

They have been able to post a video and information on the ’s political Facebook page saying they were beginning the hunger strike over the collaboration of Cayman with “the cruel dictatorships in our country”.

The IDC facility is in Fairbanks and the situation could become worse, as to help alleviate some of the overcrowding at Northward Prison, at least twenty prisoners there are to be transferred to Fairbanks.

Although government claim these prisoners will be separated from the refugees there could be human rights issues.

When will government authorities learn keeping silent is not always ‘golden’. It leads to speculation and the media world has changed. A lot faster than the keeping silent policy. Nothing is secret anymore and if it is somehow contained, fake news comes forth in droves.

Refusing meals by detainees is still a hunger strike.

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