After Three Day StandOff, Cuban Migrants Agree to Disembark Bulker

refugees agree to disembark in Grand Cayman after being saved from the ocean
Bulk Freedom departed Grand Cayman overnight after the group they saved from the ocean agreed to go ashore

Published Apr 9, 2021 3:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

The stand-off between a group of Cuban migrants who were refusing to come ashore from the bulk carrier that had rescued them from the ocean and the government of the Cayman Islands came to an end overnight. The group’s resistance crumbled late yesterday as they agreed to return to Grand Cayman and the bulk carrier was later able to depart resuming its voyage to the Panama Canal.

The Cayman News Service is reported that the three-day stand-off came to a conclusion without incident but only after the youngest member of the group fell ill and was removed from the ship under a court order. The infant was the child of one of the Cubans and her mother is native to the Dominican Republic. The couple had been living on Grand Cayman and in a dispute with the government which is being cited as the reason they organized the group that departed the island in a small boat over the weekend.

The 13 Cuban migrants and two children were found drifting in a small boat approximately 50 miles off Grand Cayman at the beginning of the week by the Bulk Freedom, a 52,454 dwt bulker sailing from the United States bound for the Panama Canal. When the vessel brought the group to Grand Cayman, the migrants however refused to go ashore asking the captain to take them on to either the United States or Central America.

The Cayman Islands Customs and Border Control tried to convince the migrants to return to Grand Cayman. Initially, they reported that everyone was well but exhausted from their ordeal at sea. Later it was reported that the infant was running a fever, but the parents were demanding that a doctor be sent out to the ship. Late yesterday a Cayman court ordered the child removed from the ship and brought to a hospital for treatment. The parents at first refused to leave the bulker but later agreed after their daughter was taken to the hospital.

The captain of the bulker had been refusing to depart or transport the group citing the fact that the bulk carrier was not equipped to carry that number of people. It was highlighted that the vessel was only licensed to have 25 persons aboard. The captain said they did not have medical or sanitary equipment for the migrants as well as a lack of food and accommodations. They had been sleeping on the deck in the ship’s communication room. The Cayman authorities sent food, water, and baby supplies to the ship during the stand-off.

Earlier in the week one of the 13 migrants agreed to go ashore and was transferred to a quarantine hotel. After the couple followed their infant daughter to shore, the remainder of the group later agreed to also return to the island. The Cayman News Service reported seeing them come ashore along with their possessions. It was believed they would all be placed temporarily into a quarantine facility. The group has been living on the island under refugee status, but they complained that they were being required to wear monitoring devices. They were seeking to claim status as political refugees.

During their time aboard the Bulk Freedom, they were posting messages, pictures, and videos of their interaction with the Cayman authorities on social media. They claimed they were being mistreated and that the authorities finally blocked their phones in an effort to end the situation. The government denied the charges of mistreatment saying they were following international refugee agreements.