By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell has instructed his ministry to consider the possibility that criminal elements abroad are encouraging Cuban migrants to enter The Bahamas illegally to destabilize the country.
Mitchell sent out a statement on Tuesday after he said he learned that 13 Cuban migrants were caught in Bahamian waters on Sunday.
“This morning I have instructed the public officials at the ministry of foreign affairs and the immigration department to immediately review this and the other recent interdictions, including formal contacts with our immediate neighboring countries, to see if there is any connection to criminal elements in those countries seeking to destabilize our country by encouraging people to breach our borders by leaving Cuba and entering The Bahamas illegally,” Mitchell said.
He said the Cubans interdicted on Sunday were transported to New Providence for processing before their repatriation.
Earlier this month, a delegation of senior government officials travelled to Cuba to begin talks about the issue of illegal Cuban migrants traveling to The Bahamas.
Mitchell said at the time that the delegation would “begin talks on the modalities of a more efficient return of Cuban migrants to their home country”.
The latest apprehension came days after five Cubans were repatriated.
Director of Immigration William Pratt said the turnaround involved in repatriating Cubans and apprehending more is frustrating.
Earlier this month, 14 Cubans were found in waters off Bimini.
Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers found 13 men and one woman on a 20-foot makeshift vessel 30 nautical miles off Bimini.
Last month, six Cuban men were found in waters off Cay Sal Bank.
The men were briefly detained by the US Coast Guard and were later turned over to Bahamian authorities.
The spike in Cuban interdictions comes amid the alleged abuse of Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage announced yesterday that the government is prepared to proceed against the defence force officers implicated in the allegations, though he offered few specifics on the matter.
Attorney Wayne Munroe, who is representing one of the accused officers, said on Tuesday that his client had not contacted him.
Miami-based protest group Democracy Movement has staged multiple protests over the alleged abuse.
Ramon Sanchez, a spokesman for the group, said Democracy Movement would not rest until the government completes and makes public the investigation into the allegations.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian