More than a dozen Cuban nationals were placed in the custody of Belizean authorities after they were trying to flee their home country on a boat. The group of sixteen, which include two females, were making the treacherous journey north when the vessel they were in malfunctioned last week. It is reported that the group left Grand Cayman on August 26 heading to Honduras but the boat broke down and the vessel began to meander in the Caribbean Sea. After about a week, they ended up in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The authorities then took them before the court yesterday, appearing before Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser. The migrants’ local attorney is Orson “OJ” Elrington.
Orson “Oj” Elrington, Attorney: “The arguments that we put forth was that they did not violate the law because as indicated and by all accounts they did not have the intention to come to Belize, that they merely were victims of an unfortunate set of circumstances, a weather pattern and not having the necessary resources and as a result of that not having the gas and that is how they ended up drifting to Belize and so our arguments were that essentially for there to be a successful conviction under the criminal law that it would need to be both not only the actus rios, not only the act of being in Belize without proper documentation but they had to have the intention actually to be in Belize. Criminal offenses both elements must be satisfied. The learned magistrate and the representatives of the Immigration Department, well the learned magistrate differed in her opinion she felt as though, and the prosection felt as though it was a strict liability offense and so the question of intention was not one that should be considered. Nonetheless the Chief Magistrate in her wisdom decided to exercise her discretion and while she did grant the expulsion order, the removal order, she exercised her discretion not to render any type of custodial sentence or any fine against the Cubans.”
It is suspected they were heading to nearby Mexico or possibly the United States. When they came to Belize, it is also reported that they requested fuel to complete the trip. However, because they landed in Belize without documents, they were detained by Police. Elrington says that this is the end goal, to allow them to continue.
Orson “Oj” Elrington, Attorney: “That is what we are in communication now as we speak we are reaching out to the authorities to see how we can have this matter resolved. There is still a level of uncertainty as to what will happen. Obviously we have our views as to what should happen but the authorities have the final say as to what will happen and so we will try our best to keep in communication with the authorities and try to resolve this matter as amicably as possible. It is our opinion that in the current circumstance that these persons did not have any… you know it’s the sea it’s not something like a border, like a river that you cross or something it’s the sea people are in and again there was an unfortunate weather pattern and they effectively drifted ashore as a result of that and therefore all they were requesting was they actually relayed that they had tried to call for emergency help over and over again and they were unsuccessful in doing so and that is how they ended up drifting ashore and therefore they were requesting the authorities to simply help them with getting the gas that they needed so that they could continue sailing along their way.”