08/17/13 - Miami Herald - Bahamas repatriates 24 Cubans
Cuban-Americans in South Florida criticized the Bahamian government harshly
Friday after it repatriated 24 Cuban migrants, including about eight
offered asylum in Panama after accusing a guard of beating them at a Nassau
The 24 were bused to the airport and put aboard a plane bound for Cuba
despite last-minute entreaties by U.S. government and other officials to
delay the returns, said Ramón Saúl Sánchez, head of the Miami-based
Authorities in the Bahamas had could not be reached for comment but
previously said that their country has an immigration agreement with Havana
to repatriate any undocumented Cubans who do not qualify for political
The alleged abuses and plans for repatriations have heightened tension in
South Florida, where Cuban groups called for tourist boycotts of the
Bahamas, held hunger strikes and staged horn-honking protests around the
Sánchez said the Democracy Movement would seek to accuse Bahamas Prime
Minister Perry Christie in international fora of sending the migrants back
to Cuba in order "to hide from public view those who were tortured in his
It will also ask that the 24 Cubans repatriated be given protection and
visas by Panama and other countries to resolve a humanitarian issue, he
Those repatriated Friday included eight involved in filming a cell-phone
video showing an alleged guard at the Immigration Detention Center in
Nassau kicking several detainees on the ground, he added. Panama had
offered asylum to them and 11 others allegedly beaten.
Bahamas authorities claimed in July that the video was a fake. Rep. Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen said Friday that U.S. State Department officials had told her
that Nassau has now confirmed its veracity and removed the guilty guards.
"It is shameful that the Bahamian government would not even consider the
humanitarian asylum offer made by the government of Panama," added the
Cuban-American Republican from Miami.
In much tougher language, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart branded the repatriation
despite Panama's offer of asylum as an "unconscionable" and "outrageous"
act and an "utter disgrace and blight" on the Bahamas' human rights record.
"I, and many in my community, will never forget the heartless betrayal of
these freedom-seeking refugees," he added. Nassau will have to "assume the
responsibility for the abuses that they (the 24) will inevitably suffer."
Sanchez, whose group has been in contact with the Cuban detainees by cell
phone, said about 50 Cubans had been held in Nassau, most of them
intercepted while trying to sneak into the United States. Three apparently
lived in the United States and were suspected of people smuggling.
Bahamian officials have told another eight Cubans they will be repatriated
within days, he added, likely including a group of seven that was
intercepted recently and seemed willing to be returned home quickly,
according to Sánchez. There has been no word on the fate of the rest.
Panama last week offered "territorial asylum" to 19 Cubans in Nassau,
described by Sanchez was those most abused at the detention center and the
Fox Hill prison. One was stabbed at the prison, according to a Panamanian
list of the names obtained by El Nuevo Herald.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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