Drifting Cuban Migrants Ordered to Leave

By MarEx 2014-06-26 19:16:00

A group of Cuban migrants anchored in an open wooden boat off the Cayman Islands for nearly two weeks have been told by the government to leave or face detention and repatriation.

The makeshift vessel carrying about 30 people arrived on June 14 off the south coast of the island of Grand Cayman, and is drifting about a quarter of a mile offshore near South Sound, a fashionable strip of wealthy oceanfront homes.

The Cubans were given an ultimatum on Wednesday to depart or be taken into custody, according to Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith.

Some local residents have assisted the Cubans with food and water while they shelter from rough seas before likely heading west to the coast of Honduras.

Officials in the Caymans say more Cuban boats are being spotted in their territorial waters, usually headed for Honduras, from where migrants make the long journey overland to reach the U.S. border with Mexico.

Under an existing agreement between Cuba and the Cayman Islands government, migrants who come ashore are usually repatriated. Cayman and Cuban officials are due to meet later this year to negotiate new migration terms.

The current agreement, signed in 1999, states that Cuban migrant boats are allowed to pass through Cayman waters as long as they do not seek any assistance.

The Caymans is a British territory located less than 100 miles (160 km) south of Cuba.

Cruise ships have also been involved in several recent rescues. In March 24 Cubans were rescued from a wooden boat by a passing cruise liner which took them to the Cayman Islands.

Copyright Reuters 2014.