Three Cubans were arrested in the Cayman Islands after threatening to torch the Fairbanks Immigration Detention Center and injure its staffers in an act of protest against delays in their repatriation to Cuba, according to news reports Friday.
“I recognize that the situation was extremely volatile and praise … the staff who were able to manage the incident and diffuse it without any injury,” Premier Alden McLaughlin was quoted as saying by the Cayman News Service (CNS).
The news service reported that police, immigration officials, customs staff, prison officers and fire crews were summoned to the detention center Thursday after “a near riot broke out at the facility.”
Three of the Cubans were arrested and taken to a police lockup, CNS reported. Another tried to escape during the incident but was quickly recaptured.
Scores of Cubans escaping through the eastern end of their country have been winding up in the Cayman Islands, a British territory 125 miles to the south, when their boats break down or rough seas force them to abandon the trips.
They are put in the immigration detention center and are then supposed to be repatriated to Cuba within three weeks. But Havana has been taking up to three months to approve the returns, according to the CNS report.
“It is my understanding that tensions have been rising for some time now,” the news service quoted McLaughlin as saying. “This is largely due to the wait times for the Cubans to be repatriated back to Cuba and the uncertainty of when this will occur.”
Most of the fleeing Cubans hope to ride the currents and prevailing winds west to Central America, from where they can go by land to the Mexican border with the United States and then cross into the U.S.