Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Cuban nationals ordered to leave the country after drifting into Belizean waters

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Although a removal order was issued for 16 Cuban nationals, they remain stranded in Belize. The group was deemed prohibited immigrants after appearing at the Magistrate Court in Belize City on Monday, September 5th. They were first detained in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, last Thursday. They had reportedly been drifting on a boat for days in the open sea before making a distress call and accidentally landing north of the island.
The police reports say the group of 14 males and two females claimed to be Cubans, although they did not have any documents with them. According to the report, these people sought asylum in the Cayman Islands without luck. The group then left for Honduras but reportedly left all their documents in the Cayman Islands. The combination of bad weather led their boat to experience mechanical issues, and instead of arriving in Honduras, they drifted off course and ended up on Ambergris Caye, Belize. It is believed that the group is aiming to reach the United States of America.
On Friday, September 2nd, they were transported from San Pedro to Belize City and arraigned on Monday at the Magistrate Court.
Nine of them were represented by Attorney Orson ‘OJ’ Elrington. He explained to Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser that the Cubans had no intention of coming to Belize. They ended up in Belizean waters after experiencing difficulties in their journey at sea. Elrington asked the court not to impose a prison term. Chief Magistrate Fraser used her discretion and did not imprison or fine the group. Instead, she issued a removal order to send them back home.
The remaining seven Cubans were unrepresented. They were escorted inside the court by representatives of the Immigration Department. The court was informed that the department was not seeking a fine against them. Chief Magistrate Fraser once again used her discretion and did not fine or imprison them. They were also issued with a removal order to be returned to their country.
It is unknown how these Cuban nationals will be removed from the country. A suggestion is for them to be returned to San Pedro, where their boat is. The boat may need some minor repairs, but some of the Cubans stated that all they need is fuel to continue their journey. The suggestion to escort them to the open sea was mentioned, but it is up to the Belize authorities to decide.

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