Cayman Islands officials say a growing number of Cuban migrant boats are being spotted in its territorial waters, apparently in response to possible changes in U.S. immigration laws that migrants fear could make it harder for them to enter the United States.
Using makeshift boats or speed boats operated by smugglers, Cubans attempting to flee the communist-run island for the United States have long traveled through the waters of the Cayman Islands, a British territory located less than 100 miles south of Cuba.
The route offers favorable winds and sea currents for Cuban migrants trying to reach Honduras, from where they make the long journey over land to reach the U.S. border with Mexico.
The Cayman government does not keep official statistics on Cuban boats traveling through its waters, but the number of Cuban migrants seen by authorities and islanders has risen in recent months, said Wesley Howell, the government's deputy chief for Internal and External Affairs.
"We are seeing an increase of migrants passing by," he said.