47 Cuban migrants spotted in Cayman waters

At least 47 Cuban migrants aboard three boats have been spotted since Friday in the territorial waters of the Cayman Islands, a British possession 125 miles off the southeaster coast of the communist ruled nation.

The Cayman News service reported that a Cuban boat carrying 13 men and two women had been seen Saturday off the Bodden Town area of Grand Cayman, the largest island in the archipelago, and was allowed to sail on.

A reader’s comment attached on Monday to that report on the digital pages of the news service said that another Cuban boat was visible off South Sound in Grand Cayman but did not give the number of passengers or whether they had sailed on or gone ashore.

Another 32 Cuban migrants, including three women, were spotted aboard a tiny boat off the smaller Cayman Brac Island on Friday. Several were treated for nausea but the boat was allowed to go on, according to police reports.

Cubans escaping from the southeastern coast of their island often cross Cayman territorial waters as tides and winds push them toward Honduras, from where the migrants hope to travel by land to the Mexican border with the United States.

Seven Cuban boats were sighted in 2012 in the waters of the Cayman Islands, a banking center and tourist destination with 57,000 permanent residents. Nine were spotted there in 2011 and three in 2010.

Under a 1999 agreement with Havana, Cayman authorities allow Cubans in boats considered to be safe to sail on, but cannot assist them with food, water or boat repairs. Those in unsafe vessels, and those who simply want to get off, are detained ashore.

They can apply for political asylum, but virtually all are rejected and repatriated to Cuba.

Of the 1,200 Cubans who arrived in the Cayman Islands during the 1994 “Rafter Crisis” — when ruler Fidel Castro allowed more than 35,000 Cubans to take to the seas in homemade water craft — only 20 received asylum.

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