Bulk carrier rescues refugees, who then refuse to disembark in nearest port

Bulk carrier Bulk Freedom, which on April 4th rescued 14 Cubans from a small boat some 50nm off Grand Cayman, has now found that the rescued refugees/migrants do not want to disembark in Grand Cayman, because that was where they had started from.

The 52,454 dwt Bulk Freedom, registered in Panama, was sailing from the US to Panama when it rescued the travellers. The Cayman Customs and Border Control Service said that they appeared to be weak after having drifted for the past few days, but were uninjured from their time at sea.

The Bulk Freedom reported the situation to the Cayman Island Coast Guard and proceeded to the anchorage off George Town, Grand Cayman where it was assured the people would be transferred to shore.

The dozen individuals turned out to be Cuban citizens who had been on Grand Cayman and were being treated as refugees. They were not being detained on the island but they were being monitored with electronic bracelets.

The group told authorities that they had hired the boat from Grand Cayman and set out to sea, but it was unclear if they had a specific destination. The Cayman authorities reported the Cubans missing on April 4th after their electronic monitoring devices failed to respond.

After the Bulk Freedom anchored in Grand Cayman, the vessel was met by a Cayman Islands Coast Guard vessel along with police and Customs and Border officers. The Cubans announced to the officers that they did not want to return to Grand Cayman and that they wanted to stay aboard the bulk carrier to travel either to the US or to Central America, where they would seek asylum. Cayman authorities have been trying to persuade the refugees that the bulk carrier is not heading in that direction and is not prepared to transport them.

The individuals were reported to be locked aboard the ship and running low on supplies. The refugees have been posting on social media accounts with videos and photos and asking for supplies including water and food. Their pictures show them sleeping on the deck and floor in the accommodations area, which is overcrowded and without proper facilities.

The Cayman News Service reported that one person agreed to return to the island and was transported ashore and placed into a quarantine hotel. A second member of the group may have later also gone ashore after reporting that they were not feeling well.