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40 Cuban migrants apprehended

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 30, 2013

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Forty suspected Cuban migrants were arrested near Cay Sal on Monday after evading capture since last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

There were 39 adults and one child in the group.

They were arrested for illegal entry into The Bahamas.

The statement said the ministry received reports that officers on patrol saw a go fast vessel with an estimated 40 people on board heading north from La Isabella, Cuba, as early as October 24.

“The go fast vessel was observed reportedly offloading these suspected Cuban migrants onto a deserted cay near Cay Sal,” the statement said.

“The report is that the go fast vessel was subsequently stopped in international waters. Two smugglers were reportedly found on board the vessel and were detained.  The migrants however evaded capture until October 28,” the statement said.

Immigration Director William Pratt told The Nassau Guardian that the U.S. Coast Guard spotted the group and apprehended the migrants before turning them over to Bahamian authorities.

U.S. authorities arrested the smugglers, who are reportedly American, Pratt said.

Pratt said immigration authorities hope to repatriate the first group of Cubans by the end of next week.

Last week, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell and Cuban Ambassador to The Bahamas Ernesto Soberon Guzman exchanged diplomatic notes cementing a new standard operation procedures between the two countries.

This will allow Cuban detainees to be repatriated in a matter of weeks as opposed to the previous months-long process.

Mitchell said in the past, bureaucracy has “bogged down” the repatriation process for Cubans.

In some instances, Cubans have lingered in the Carmichael Road Detention Centre for over nine months, officials said.

Mitchell said the new procedures will also allow time for the government to uphold its obligations through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure proper screening for political asylum.

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