$850k spent on migrants last year, mass migration a concern | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

With the recent increase in the number of migrants arriving on the shores of Cayman Brac, the Cayman Islands Customs and Border Control Service (CBC) is taking a proactive measure and recently hosted a multiagency Mass Migration Committee meeting to discuss the Cayman Islands Mass Migration Contingency Plan.

“There is no benefit from intercepting seaborne migrants before their arrival on our shores because they will still have to be processed in the same manner in accordance with the International Convention on the Treatment of Refugees.” said CBC Director Charles Clifford. In mid-April 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was modified and agreed upon by the governments of the Cayman Islands and Cuba which defined timescales within which undocumented Cuban migrants would be repatriated to Cuba from the Cayman Islands.

Director Clifford says “A mass influx of migrants or refugees will inevitably present budgetary and national security challenges”. The Cayman Islands Mass Migration Contingency Plan, can be activated once the CBC Detention Center (CBCDC) reaches 80% capacity.

“While the numbers of migrants are not over capacity at the CBCDC, it was important to not wait until the situation became unmanageable to brief and prepare the Mass Migration Committee and by extension the agencies which constitute the Committee,” stated Director Charles Clifford.

With the recent arrival of 15 migrants on April 24, the current number of migrants on island stands at 96, with 51 of them arriving between March and April 2022.

The Mass Migration Contingency Plan outlines the functions and responsibilities of the various government agencies, who all work together to provide a range of services including logistics, security and social services and welfare. The Mass Migration Committee is responsible for implementing the contingency plan and the following agencies comprise the committee: CBC (Chair), RCIPS, Cayman Islands Coast Guard, WORC, Ministry of Border Control & Labour, Office of the Governor, Office of the Deputy Governor, Department of Children & Family Services, Health Services Authority, Public Works Department (Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac offices), District Administration, Government information Services, Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI), H.M Cayman Islands Prison Services, Cayman Islands Regiment (CI Regiment). All agencies provide a critical role in carrying out the duties necessary to process, house and oversee all undocumented migrants.

Processing of arriving migrants is managed by CBC whereby the first step is to ensure Public Health and COVID-19 protocols are followed with officers wearing the necessary Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for health and safety reasons. Along with other processing steps, the migrants are subject to a mandatory 10-day isolation period during which they are housed at the CBC Detention Centre or another facility suitable for such purposes.

Director Clifford said, “The CBC Detention Centre has recently undergone repairs and upgrades to bring it to the standard deemed appropriate for its intended use.”

It is important to note that any migrant who has been identified as having a criminal background during the arrival process may be separated from other migrants for the purpose of determining the risk such migrant may pose to themselves, any other person, or to the community in general.

Director Clifford said, “Ensuring national security is at the forefront of our work in processing migrants as we have an overriding responsibility to keep our residents, visitors and indeed the migrants safe.”

In the event of local law enforcement agencies becoming overwhelmed due to a mass influx of migrants, assistance will be sought from other neighbouring British Overseas Territories through the Governor’s Office and/or the United Kingdom.

For the financial year ending 2021, $850,000 dollars was spent on managing migrants.