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Ombudsman negotiates resolution to Cuban financial assistance dispute

Local News 19 Oct, 2020 Follow News

Sandy Hermiston, Cayman Islands Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman received a complaint from three Cuban asylum grantees in early August, two of whom lost their jobs in the tourism sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, who had been denied certain government benefits given to tourism sector workers at the time.

The three were among a group of a few dozen asylum grantees and asylum-seekers who gathered outside the downtown Government Administration Building on August 4-5 attempting to receive financial assistance. The complainants claimed they were denied the assistance because they were not Caymanian. Some of the attendees at the gathering were children who had not eaten properly in days, according to the complainants.

Given the urgency of the situation, an Ombudsman investigator who is fluent in Spanish undertook to mediate the situation between the Cubans and the Customs and Border Control (CBC) department, acting as the go-between and communicating with both sides to effect a swift resolution. As part of those discussions, which included the chief officer for the Ministry of Community Affairs, CBC managers agreed to take over the payment of benefits to asylum grantees and asylum-seekers going forward, as the agency’s officers are more familiar with the legal requirements regarding such individuals.

A CBC “help desk” will be established at the Government Administration Building to assist with asylum-related matters that may arise in the future.

“Although some of the discussions were intense, this ended up being a great example of the dispute resolution services the Ombudsman’s office, aided by a responsive government agency, can provide,” said Sandy Hermiston, Cayman Islands Ombudsman. “Not every problem requires an in-depth investigation, especially when there are matters which must be resolved urgently and government agencies are willing to work towards early resolution.”

It is also important to note that once a person has been granted asylum, they are afforded similar rights and protections as those given to Cayman Islands citizens, including the ability to apply for and receive assistance with living expenses from government.

Anyone with questions about our office’s work or who wishes to file a maladministration complaint against the government may contact the Office of the Ombudsman via phone at 946-6283 or via email at into@ombudsman.ky. Our website, www.ombudsman.ky also has much more information about how to do so. All matters discussed are kept strictly confidential.

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