Cuba-Cayman Islands MOU Talks to Start in New Year

Cubans-in-West-Bay-Cayman-Islands

Cayman authorities will meet their Havana counterparts early in 2014 to negotiate revisions to the 1999 memorandum of understanding prescribing the treatment of illegal Cuban immigrants. As this Cayman Compass article states, discussions are likely to touch on subjects including the timing of mutual notifications, repatriation flights, shared expenses, and asylum claims.

The changes come in the wake of a 12-page summertime Human Rights Commission review of the issues in the MOU that, until now, has elicited little response from policymakers at the Ministry of Home Affairs, sparking fears that government may do little to boost important changes. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, however, told the Caymanian Compass that he had been in touch with Cuban authorities.

The move comes after a series of meetings – the first in April 2012 and three others in January and February 2013 – with Mr. Manderson, the chief immigration officer and other department officials, the director of public prosecutions, the attorney general and commissioner of police. “When we spoke to the deputy governor, he did say he was intending to revisit the MOU and some of the issues,” said Richard Cole, Human Rights Commission chairman. “We haven’t heard anything since then,” he said. “They said they would go back to the Cuban authorities and, after 14 years, see if [the MOU] needs modernization.”

[. . .] The April 15, 1999, 10-point MOU, between Havana and George Town committed the Cayman Islands government to a series of enforcement actions whenever Cuban migrants appeared inside the 12-mile limit of Cayman waters. Within seven days of their apprehension by RCIPS marine units or Immigration Department officers, Cayman must provide a cursory list of names and addresses of each immigrant, followed “in as short a time as possible,” according to the document, details of “sex, date of birth [and] their most recent address in Cuba to include street name, house number, flat number, municipality and province as well as a photograph … and the place and date of their illegal arrival in the Cayman Islands.” Havana, within 20 days, shall answer “with its authorization to accept the return of the Cuban citizens.”

Without naming a time frame, the MOU says Cayman must notify Havana within seven days of the date of the illegal immigrants’ repatriation flight into Havana’s main Jose Marti Airport, detailing both their names and those of the Cayman officials accompanying them. No arrival or other tax shall be charged to the repatriates, who must not bring with them any foreign goods or currency.

“It‘s time the MOU was revised,” said Bruce Smith, deputy chief immigration officer for border control, “but there has been a bit of foot-dragging.” Among other things, he pointed to the “extremely costly” nature of holding and returning illegal Cuban immigrants, describing the process as “extremely extravagant.” [. . .]

In its report of meetings with local officials, The Human Rights Commission pointed out that, under UN Conventions, any refugee had the right to seek asylum, although such claims were difficult to support, requiring distinctions between economic migrants and true political threats of persecution. The commission nonetheless sought in its report to ensure that Immigration Department interviews of Cuban arrivals included procedures for asylum applications. “The Cayman Islands, like any other country, should not facilitate irregular migration, and there is an obligation to balance migrant control with ensuring fair and appropriate asylum processes,” the commission’s report said.

[Many thanks to Peter Polack for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full article, see http://compasscayman.com/caycompass/2013/11/29/Cuba-MOU-talks-to-start-in-new-year/

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