September 18, 2020

Cubans on homemade boat win refuge from rough seas in Cayman Islands


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sns-rt-lynxmpeabd0h3-jpg-20141214By Peter Polack Reuters From The Virginia Gazette

A group of 26 Cubans on a homemade wooden boat were granted temporary refuge in the Cayman Islands when bad weather interrupted their quest to seek exile in the United States.

The four women and 22 men, almost all from the coastal town of Santa Cruz Del Sur in the southeastern province of Camaguey, were four days into their journey when they took shelter from high seas on Wednesday.

In a break from normal rules, Cayman authorities said they can remain until the weather improves.

One of the passengers on the boat, Laudmir Hernandez, a carpenter, said the hand-crafted wooden vessel took just seven days to build and is powered by an antique, U.S.-made, Pierce-Arrow four-cylinder car engine.

He said the lack of economic opportunity forced him to embark on the risky 400-mile (644-km) journey across the Caribbean to Honduras.

Cubans seeking to flee communist-run Cuba have been heading in increasing numbers by sea to Central America and then making a long journey overland to reach the United States.

Under Washington’s “wet foot, dry foot policy,” Cuban migrants who make it onto U.S. soil are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea are turned back.

Cayman authorities allowed the latest group to come ashore and use a public beach cabana to shower, as well as sleep on the beach and receive food from local Good Samaritans. Migrants are usually only allowed ashore if they agree to be repatriated.

U.S. officials say more than 16,000 Cubans arrived without visas at the border with Mexico in the past year, the highest number in a decade.

Cuban officials blame the U.S. policy for encouraging migrants to risk their lives.

One group of 32 Cuban migrants drifted for three weeks without food or water in the Caribbean this summer after their engine failed. Only 15 were found alive when they were rescued by Mexican fishermen.

(Writing by David Adams; Editing by Leslie Adler and Eric Walsh)

IMAGE: Cuban rafters sit together on the beach after landing on the Cayman Islands, in George Town (STRINGER,, REUTERS / December 14, 2014)

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Related story:

Caribbean-migration-UNHCR says nearly 5,000 people risk their lives by sea to avert poverty

Refugees_on_a_boat-CustomFrom The Daily Observer CMC Regional 0 Comments

GENEVA, Dec 14, CMC – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said nearly 5,000 people have taken to boats this year in a bid to escape poverty.

But the agency is warning that given the high number of global migrant arrivals by sea, the international community is steadily losing focus on saving lives and intensifying its efforts to deny foreigners access to asylum.

“This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars,” said António Guterres, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, ahead of a Geneva-based forum devoted to protecting sea-bound migrants.

“Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage,” he added.

According to estimates from coastal authorities and data points collected by the UN, at least 348,000 people have risked seafaring journeys worldwide since the beginning of 2014 as they flee conflicts and poverty.

“In the Caribbean, 2014 has seen almost 5,000 people take to boats as they escape the clutches of poverty and explore asylum options in the neighbouring countries,” UNHCR said.

The Bahamas have constantly urged Haitians authorities to do more to prevent their nationals from undertaking the dangerous travel by sea in unseaworthy boats.

Many of the Haitians either try to remain in the Bahamas or use the chain of islands for an easier passage into the United States.

The UNCHR said that in addition to the difficulties of these journeys, which often stretch across multiple borders and over thousands of kilometres, many of those migrating along these maritime corridors succumb to trafficking and smuggling networks coordinated by international organized crime.

“You can’t stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more. The real causes have to be addressed, and this means looking at why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and what can be done to crack down on the criminal networks who prosper from this, while at the same time protecting their victims,” . Guterres said.

“It also means having proper systems to deal with arrivals and distinguish real refugees from those who are note,” he added.

Guterres’ comment comes as UN officials from its humanitarian and human rights agencies prepare to gather at UNHCR?s 2014 High Commissioner’s Dialogue here, an informal policy discussion forum whose focus this year is “Protection at Sea”.

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