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Negotiating Team To Meet Cuban Officials

Fred Mitchell

A negotiating team is expected to leave The Bahamas as early as this weekend to meet with Cuban authorities in Havana.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Fred Mitchell, the idea is to settle the modalities of how there can be a quicker turnaround of migrants to Cuba.

“We expect that a new agreement will be in place shortly,” Minister Mitchell said during a press conference yesterday.

At the time, he also revealed plans to meet with the Cuban Foreign Minister in Grenada in early September to discuss the matters directly.

“We began discussions with the acting foreign minister when the national security minister and I met in Havana earlier this month,” he said. “We have had helpful discussions within the past week with the Government of Panama.

“Our mandate is to ensure that the detention centre is empty of inhabitants, migrants, detainees as much as humanly possible.”

Minister Mitchell said in the meantime, the Carmichael Road facility is being repaired and, in a few weeks, the Ministry of Health will supervise an effort to sanitise and paint the existing dorms.

“This will require those who are detained at the detention centre to be housed at the prison until the sanitation is done,” the minister explained. “We are seeking to ensure that these numbers are at a minimum.”

The minister’s comments come just days after the FNM revealed the details of a report that the party says proves Cuban detainees were beaten by defence force officers at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis claimed the abuse was so severe that three of the Cuban detainees had to be taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) for treatment.

“Following the beatings, the remaining detainees performed and videotaped a reenactment of the earlier beatings,” he said during a news conference last Wednesday.

“Our information is that the reenactment was facilitated with the assistance of one or more defence force officers, who provided the fatigues for the actors in the performance.”

Minister Mitchell has assured that there is an investigation into the allegations made at the detention centre.
He said this will mean a review by a retired justice of the Court of Appeal (COA) and a leading cleric.

On Sunday, he said he had spoken with the justice along with Prime Minister Perry Christie and that they are in the process of settling the terms of reference of the review of the investigation that they expect within a week.

The government is hoping to have the review of the matter settled within 30 days thereafter, according to the minister.
At the time, Minister Mitchell also responded to Dr. Minnis’ calls for his resignation.

“This is sad, reprehensible, regrettable, disgraceful and shameful,” he said.

“We must ask the question how is it that one day after the leader of the opposition called for the resignation of this minister, that the leader of the protestors in Miami, who have so defamed our country also made the same call, using almost exactly the same words. Dr. Minnis must explain the connection.”

The foreign affairs minister went on to question why the former FNM government never made public the results of an investigation done on the detention centre.

According to Minister Mitchell the report, which came in the wake of two fires and reports of abuse at the facility, also prompted human rights watchdog Amnesty International to question why the findings were withheld.
In 2006 and 2008, two fires destroyed the detention centre’s dorms, cutting its capacity by 50 per cent.
It was later determined that both incidents were the result of arson.

“With this issue and in so many things in our system, life is cyclical,” he said.

“It appears that every so often this issue pops up. I’ve seen reports on the file. I will speak to Cabinet and see what can be done, because my view is that it should be made known to the public. Dr. Minnis must explain to us why Amnesty International was able to allege on the 20th of August this year that the report was never made public.”

But despite Amnesty International questioning the thoroughness of the government’s abuse investigations, Mr. Mitchell said he doesn’t agree with the body and that the findings should be as accurate and thorough as possible.

“You have to say to the commissioners or reviewers what you want them to look at,” he said.
Minister Mitchell meantime leaves for Washington today, where he will attend a series of meetings at the US State Department and Embassy as well as the United Nations Mission of The Bahamas in New York.
He will also visit The Bahamas consulates in Atlanta and Miami.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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