By Paul Kennedy
An expert in Cuban policies said he believes Cayman could see fewer migrants in our waters as relationships between the United States continue to improve.
Last week a boat load of Cubans got into difficulties off East End and two had to be rescued from the seas.
But according a professor at Florida Universities Cuban Research Unit, the number of people seeking a better life away from Cuba has already dropped – and he expects that trend to continue.
“The number of people trying to leave Cuba without immigrant visas for the United States has already decreased substantially,” said Dr.
Jorge Duany. “I’d expect this trend to continue, unless Cubans can find another route to the United States or perhaps resettle in other countries.
“Since the onset of the so-called Special Period—the economic crisis that accelerated with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991—Cuba has faced extreme economic hardship, which is one of the main motivating factors for the growing number of people who want to leave the Island.
“In addition, many Cuban migrants have expressed their dissatisfaction with the one-party state and its centrally planned economy.
A combination of material and ideological incentives, plus the lack of sufficient legal means to relocate in the United States and other countries, helps explain why so many people take such risks to seek a better life elsewhere.”
And that desire for a better life often sees people taking life-threatening risks, setting sail from Cuba in rickety vessels in a desperate bid to reach the U.S. Often boats get into trouble around the Cayman Islands, forcing those on board to land.
In the summer of 2015, Cuba and the U.S. restored diplomatic relations which had been severed during the Cold War in 1961.
It means Americans can now travel more easily to the country they once feared so much. But, according to Dr. Duany this hasn’t had a massive impact on the Cuban quality of life.
“The partial rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuban governments hasn’t improved much the living conditions of most people on the Island,” he said.
“Despite the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the U.S. embargo against Cuba is still in place, which prevents the full “normalisation” of trade, investment, travel, communications, and other transactions between the two countries.
“Most people in Cuba continue to lead a very harsh daily life, characterised by low wages, constant struggles to find sufficient food outside the rationing system, few opportunities for occupational advancement, a crumbling housing infrastructure, and chronic transportation problems.”
In the past the financial burden of housing, feeding, securing and eventually repatriating Cuban has taken its toll on Cayman’s coffers.
Dr. Duany added: “Every government has the right to expect an orderly, legal, and safe inflow of people from other countries.
I imagine that the Cayman Islands doesn’t have enough economic resources to absorb a large number of undocumented immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, or other places, for that matter.
“I don’t know of any alternative ways to deal with this issue. The Cuban government certainly can’t afford to cover the cost of repatriating its citizens.”
Last week the Joint Marine Unit rescued two Cubans who were clinging to a channel marker in the waters near the Morritt’s Tortuga Club. Twenty-nine other people on board the same boat had earlier swam to shore. All are being held at the Immigration Detention Centre awaiting repatriation.
“They were very fortunate, as the sea was rough and the currents were strong,” said Leo Anglin, inspector at the Joint Marine Unit. “The operation at night was an additional concern. We are relieved that we were able to reach them in time.”