Cuban migrants are streaming into the Cayman Islands and United States. Cayman is experiencing some of the highest levels of irregular migration in nearly 30 years, with 173 Cubans currently in custody and being managed by the Customs and Border Control Service and the Mass Migration Committee.
CBC Director Charles Clifford said: “The Cayman Islands experienced a mass migration crisis in 1994, with the arrival of approximately 1,100 Cuban migrants in a relatively short period. With the increasing number of irregular Cuban migrants arriving on our shores now, the situation has the potential to overwhelm our services which could potentially create national security challenges.”
Cuban immigrants to the US is at its highest levels since the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, only this time they are crossing the US southern land border instead of arriving by sea.
The Washington Post stated that two months ago around 32,000 Cubans were taken into custody along the USA-Mexico border, many arriving through other Central American countries such as Honduras and Nicaragua.
In April 2015, the Cayman Islands Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cuba over migration. It introduced agreed timelines for the exchange of information between the two governments that will shorten the time between the arrival and repatriation of Cuban migrants.
As well as ensuring that migrants are able to return to their families without undue delay, the shorter turnaround times will reduce the costs involved in accommodating migrants. However, the repatriation process is sometimes delayed because of legal challenges and over the past two years Cuba’s border was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuba has recently reopened their border.
In 2021, the Cayman Islands Government spent $946,000 on the management of Cuban migrants. Around $450,000 has been spent to date since the start of the year on this issue. If the current trend of arrivals continues, supplementary funding will need to be approved to buttress the 2022 budget of $758,000.
The cost of maintaining each migrant is approximately CI$100 to $150 per day, which is inclusive of food, housing, medical costs, security and other miscellaneous costs. Historically, the following amounts have been spent on irregular migrants annually:
Various factors contribute to the extremely high costs associated with the custody, care, and repatriation of irregular migrants, including delays in receiving authorisation for repatriation from the Government of Cuba, delays in the appeals process, and the provision of special accommodation needs (for example for families, children and pregnant women), and exceptional security measures.