The pressure is on to find new housing solutions as the country reaches breaking point with an increasing number of Cuban migrants. Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Jeremy Scott told Cayman 27 his team is facing a mass migration on par with a national disaster, but he believes the problem is under control.
The Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) can hold a maximum of 60 detainees at any given time. That limit was surpassed after 2 waves of Cuban migrants. In less than a week 90 migrants were taken into custody after arriving on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, forcing the department to find alternative housing facilities.
“That centre (the IDC) is actually run by Her Majesty’s Prison Northward. is currently filled to capacity at this time. So there is currently 2 spill over facilities, that are currently being operated, which is actually the East End Civic Centre and the Bodden Town Civic Centre,” said Mr. Scott.
There are 60 migrants at the IDC in George Town, 18 at the James Manoah Bodden Sr. Civic Centre in Bodden Town, and 53 at the Aston Rutty Civic Centre in East End. All told there are now 131 migrants in custody. Mr Scott says a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Cayman Islands and Cuban Government has helped to prevent overcrowding at the centre in years gone by.
During an interview with Cayman 27 Mr. Scott said, “We found that there was a revision of the MoU where we addressed the turn around times, and the permission given by the Cuban Government, and we have seen that those turn around times have increased significantly.”
Increased turn around time leads to quicker repatriation of migrants being housed at the IDC. In fact more than 50 migrants were sent back to Cuba in January of this year. The problem that the Immigration Department is grappling with is new migrants are arriving faster than they can repatriate the ones in custody. A prime example of this is that although 50 migrants were deported, 90 arrived 4 weeks later.
Mr. Scott says they are exploring several options, one of which is increasing the capacity of the IDC, without increasing the size of the structure. But for now spill over facilities like the civic centres are being used, which in itself is another can of worms.
The primary functions of the centers are for community and civic events, as the name suggests. Those functions don’t simply go away just because, of Cuban detainees. Proof of which was over the weekend when all 18 migrants were transferred from the civic centre in Bodden Town to the one in North Side so as to facilitate a wedding that had been pre-booked. Further more the centres serve as a hurricane shelter, and in the event of a storm, the government would be left between a rock and a hard place.
So far they have been able to shift and move the detainees around when needed, but if a solution is not found Mr. Scott says the resources of the department may become strained even more.