Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Cayman Islands

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Cayman Islands, 2007, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
Comments In October 2015, MRG revised its World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. For the most part, overview texts were not themselves updated, but the previous 'Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples' rubric was replaced throughout with links to the relevant minority-specific reports, and a 'Resources' section was added. Refworld entries have been updated accordingly.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Cayman Islands are located in the western Caribbean Sea. The largest, called Grand Cayman, is situated northwest of Jamaica, The sister islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, lie about 130 km northeast of Grand Cayman. All three islands were formed by large coral heads.


The Cayman Islands were so called by the British privateer Sir Francis Drake, who landed in 1586 and named them after the indigenous Arawak-Taíno resident's word for crocodile (caiman).

The islands, along with nearby Jamaica, were ceded to England in 1670 under the Treaty of Madrid and were governed as a single colony along with Jamaica. When Jamaica became independent and joined the Commonwealth in 1962, the Cayman Islands remained a separate British overseas territory.

In 1994 and 1995 the islands were involved in the Cuban refugee crisis, when several thousand Cubans arrived in search of political asylum. Most were sent on to the US military base in Guantánamo, Cuba, while some were granted political asylum.


Main languages: English

Main religions: Christianity

The majority of the population is of mixed ethnicity. There is a substantial Afro-Caribbean migrant workforce, drawn from Haiti, Jamaica and other islands. Strong family and cultural ties dating back to the early colonial period also exist between the Cayman Islands and residents of English-speaking enclaves on the Caribbean Coast of Central America.


As a British overseas territory the Cayman Islands have an appointed governor who represents the monarch. The Governor has the power to veto any law passed by the 15-seat Legislative Assembly which is popularly elected every four years. The territory is run by a five member cabinet, and the civil service falls under the jurisdiction of the chief secretary, who also serves as acting governor when required.

The Cayman Islands enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The per capita income (2004) is estimated at US $35,000. The islands' main sources of income are offshore financial services and tourism, which have replaced traditional turtle fishing and agriculture. With over 70,000 incorporated companies and 500 banks, the territory is known as one of the largest tax havens in the world.


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