Contingency plans have been drawn up for what would almost certainly be the biggest force of British police officers sent to a dependent territory since the Anguilla crisis in 1969.
Ministers have already approved the sending of four senior officers on a reconnaissance mission to assess what the Cayman authorities have told the Foreign Office is a rapidly mounting threat to law and order from the rapid influx of Cubans.
Michael Gore, the governor of the Caymans, which lie south of Cuba and has a resident population of 30,000 with a police force of around 200, has told the British government that the local authorities may not be able to cope with the arrival of the Cubans, many of whom are living in tents.
Cabinet ministers, including Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, have yet to give final approval to the despatch of a full force of police officers, but the Metropolitan Police and provincial forces have already been alerted to stand by, after a request by the Foreign Office to the Home Office for help.
Whitehall sources said last night that one complication was that no formal agreement exists with Cuba for the return of those refugees who do not qualify for political asylum. There has been a steady trickle of migrants from Cuba but several hundred have arrived by sea this week.Reuse content