September 03, 2013
Twelve Cuban detainees who were offered humanitarian asylum by Panama will be released to that country on Thursday, Panamanian Consul General David McGrath said yesterday.
McGrath said they include three detainees at Her Majesty's Prisons and nine detainees who were released into a safe house.
"Panama has really been in the spirit from the beginning of just trying to help out on a humanitarian basis," he said.
"I had to apologize to the Bahamian authorities because they (Panamanian government) announced their offer through the press rather than through the foreign affairs channels.
"But all of that has been straightened out hopefully, and it will work out. Panama's only concern now is for the safety and well being of these people and to give them another start in life.
"I don't think this is going to be an avenue for the future, to have the flood gates open up and have Panama take everybody who comes to The Bahamas.
"They (Panamanian government) did it to try and ease the pressure from this particular moment. In future, they would study it case by case."
The alleged abuse of a group of Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre has dominated headlines for weeks.
According to witness statements from Defence Force marines and detainees at the facility, Cuban detainees were severly beaten after they attempted to escape from the center back in May.
When contacted yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell would not confirm if Panama had granted asylum to the group.
Mitchell would only confirm that 16 Cuban asylum seekers are left in the country.
"The total number of people who were adjudged to be asylum seekers in The Bahamas who were in these safe houses and in the prisons numbered 18," he said.
"Two have already left and others are awaiting passage to a third country."
According to one of the marines interviewed as part of the initial investigation by the Defence Force, Cuban detainees were beaten for almost two hours and one even appeared to have temporarily lost consciousness as a result of the abuse.
The Miami-based activist group, Democracy Movement, staged protests against The Bahamas after a video aired on a Spanish language TV station in Miami purporting to show Cubans being abused by Bahamian officers.
The government has called the video fake. Detainees claim that the video was a reenactment of an earlier beating.
Mitchell said a delegation of senior government officials left for Cuba on Sunday to begin talks over the issue of illegal Cuban migrants traveling to The Bahamas.
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian