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Cubans Deported To Havana

Twenty-four Cubans were recently repatriated in two separate flights, Director of Immigration William Pratt said.

The group included two immigrants who were being held at Her Majesty’s Prisons and the remaining Cubans were being held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, Pratt said.

Florida-based protesters from Democracy Movement have protested outside The Bahamas consulate in Miami for weeks. The group has claimed that Cuban detainees at the detention center have been abused.

The Bahamas government has strongly denied the assertion.

Ramon Sanchez, a representative of the group, said the organization did not support the Cubans being sent back to Cuba.

According to international reports, sympathizers with the detainees called the repatriation “deceitful” and claimed that some in the group were offered asylum in Panama.

Pratt said the group did not meet requirements for asylum and added that he did not understand the motivation for the protests.

“I really don’t know what is so deceitful about it because those persons were interviewed by our trained officers,” he said.

“… Their applications were [looked over] by UNHCR representatives and it was determined that they were not persons considered for refugee protection.

“And because the UNHCR already established, along with our trained personnel who UNHCR trained, it was determined that they were not considered persons who need protection under the UNHCR convention or protocol.

“So again our policy is that any persons illegally entering The Bahamas, once we process and we determine that they are not persons needing refugee protection, they are to be returned to the country from whence they came.”

Pratt added that he knew of no offer from Panama’s government to give the Cubans asylum. “As far as I know there was no official request from the Panamanian government,” he said. Pratt said two more Cuban immigrants remain at the prison.

He added that there are approximately 20 more Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash said this week the party thinks that Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell handled the matter belligerently. He said the FNM had concerns about the way the government managed the issue.

“As we have watched this unfold over the last several weeks it seems clearer every day that in the language, in the tone, in the approach that the minister of foreign affairs has taken that management is not the word that would best be used to describe how he handed it,” Cash said.

The Bahamas Consulate in Miami was put on alert Thursday after a threat was made against it, Mitchell said.

Originally it was thought that the men would be taken to Panama after that country granted the Cuban detainees visas and territorial asylum.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen protested the government’s decision to repatriate Cubans to what she called “the Castro Dictatorship”.

“Members of my staff and have been coordinating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) personnel who are on the ground in Nassau. The UNHCR officials inform us that the Cubans who are being repatriated may not be the same ones who have been offered asylum in Panama,” the Congresswoman said in a statement.

“The Bahamian government has finally acknowledged that the beatings that were caught on video occurred and we hope that the new security cameras, as well as the removal of these abusive guards, will have some positive impact on the lives of these freedom seeking Cubans. It is shameful that because the Bahamian government rejected their refugee status, the State Department policy states that the US cannot take them in after proper vetting.

“I will continue to monitor this sad situation and I will continue to press the Bahamian government that it must cease the deplorable detainment conditions under which Cubans are not fed adequately nor treated humanely; it must honour the generous asylum protections offered by third countries, such as Panama and it must coordinate with US officials and the UNHCR so that the present conditions of a lack of information ceases,” she said.

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