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Sep 5, 2022

Sixteen Cuban Nationals Allegedly Shipwrecked on Belizean Shores, Ordered to Return Home

Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser issued removal orders for sixteen Cuban nationals after entering Belize without passports. The Cuban nationals claim that on Thursday, September first, they were seeking asylum in the Cayman Islands but accidentally ended up in Belize when their boat ran out of gas and drifted ashore after experiencing bad weather.  But, Chief Magistrate Fraser questioned how these Cubans could travel from their homes to another country without any passports. The group was divided into two when they appeared in court. The first group, nine Cubans, was represented by Attorney Orson “OJ” Elrington.   He asked the magistrate to use her discretion and not to impose a prison term against them, arguing that there was not enough evidence to prove that they came to Belize intentionally. Two men from among them pleaded guilty, while the remaining seven said that they were not sure how to plea. One Cuban informed Magistrate Frazer that while they did not come to Belize with any passports they also did not want to come to Belize. That is when they informed Magistrate Fraser of their ordeal out at sea. But, before the end of the first arraignment, one woman changed her story and claimed that they were seeking asylum in Belize. A couple of the defendants claimed that their documentations were left in the Cayman Islands after they were denied asylum. The second set of Cubans was unrepresented. After the Immigration Department told the court they were not seeking a fine against the Cubans, Chief Magistrate Fraser used her discretion and did not fine them. She, however, ordered that they be sent back home. One defendant asked the Chief Magistrate if he could pay a fine and continue his journey, but she told them that a removal order means they must return back home to their country of origin.

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