By Krystel Rolle
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Cuban government has agreed to amend its foreign affairs policy to allow for quicker repatriations of Cuban nationals detained in The Bahamas, according to National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage.
Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage during a press conference on Tuesday. Torrell Glinton TNG 2013
The traditionally slow pace of repatriations of Cubans continues to place a financial burden on the government, according to Nottage, who spoke to reporters earlier this week during a press conference at the Ministry of National Security. In some cases, Cubans have lingered in the Carmichael Road Detention Centre for over nine months, he said.
Nottage said a Bahamian delegation met with the Cuban government six weeks ago to discuss challenges with illegal migration.
"As a result, just over two weeks ago, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, my office, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the immigration department were able to conclude amendments to the current understanding which would enable us to be able to deal with Cuban detainees so that they would not have to stay in our detention center as long as they have been staying,” Nottage said.
Explaining why Cuban repatriations take some time, Nottage said the Cuban government has to carry out an investigation to ensure that the person being sent to its government is a national.
"Once that is determined we can repatriate them,” Nottage added. “They are doing it more quickly now so that will save us considerable funds over the long haul, particularly if the increase in the detainees we've seen recently continues."
So far this year, more than 70 Cubans have been repatriated.
Nottage said there are currently 30 Cubans in the detention centre, 14 of whom the Cuban government has agreed to take sometime this week.
Additionally, two Cubans remain at the prison, he said.
The government talks with the Cuban administration came amid claims of abuse by a group of Cuban detainees.
A copy of a report into the alleged abuse of Cubans at the detention centre was leaked to the media last month.
The report contains witness statements in which marines admitted to beating detainees.
Since the issue of abuse has been raised, the number of Cubans entering Bahamian waters has increased.
Nottage said it would be interesting to see if there will be a further uptick in illegal migration.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian