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Bahamas awaits U.S. decision on Cubans

The fate of three Cuban detainees in The Bahamas could be decided as early as today, according to Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell.

The minister told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that a decision from American officials on whether the detainees would be accepted in the United States, was expected to have been made yesterday.

Mitchell said he was advised that officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection interviewed the detainees.  If the Americans approve the Cubans’ entry, the detainees could be deported this week.

“Deportation orders have been signed already.  It’s just a question of where they go to,” Mitchell said.

“UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) indicated that certain people can be paroled out because they are subject to refugee status or asylum status.  We are unwilling to take them.  The issue is where are they going to go.”

Last week, the three Cuban migrants, Mauricio Valdez, Randy Rodriguez and Pedro Parrado, appeared before Justice Carolita Bethell for a hearing.  They are seeking release from Bahamian custody.

Immigration officials picked up the men on Andros in May and held them at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

Valdez and Rodriguez were moved to Her Majesty’s Prisons in July and Parrado remains at the detention center.

If the men are successful in getting a third country to accept them, their attorney, Roger Gomez Jr., said he would drop the habeas corpus application seeking their release.

Over the past few weeks a series of protests have taken place in Miami by a group of Cuban-Americans.

The protests began after a video aired on a Spanish language TV station in Florida purporting to show Cuban detainees at the detention center being beaten by Bahamian officers.

Mitchell said the events in the video were staged and the government planned to sue the company that broadcast the video.  He also dismissed allegations that Cubans are mistreated while detained at the detention center.  However, some Miami-based Cubans have protested against The Bahamas’ alleged treatment of Cuban detainees for several weeks.

As the government seeks to resolve the issue, Mitchell confirmed that a United States government official wants to visit the detention center to view conditions there.

However, Mitchell said that petition will have to be heard by Cabinet before a decision is made.

Asked if the request has anything to do with the issues involving the Cuban detainees, Mitchell said he was not sure.

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