FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell tonight said Bahamians were 'shocked and fed up' with protests in Miami about three undocumented Cubans being detained in the Bahamas.
He said it was 'reprehensible that The Bahamas is being attacked in this way, apparently with official sanction. It is simply outrageous.'
Mr Mitchell said the protesters were in the United States and if they wanted the detainees in the United States they should use their influence to have them returned to the United States.
He added: "Should the United States authorities approve, the detainees can be released to the authorities as early as tomorrow."
In an interview with the Miami Herald newspaper, made public by the government tonight, Mr Mitchell gave the following responses to four questions asked by the Herald's David Noriega:
'Q: Were some of the detainees detained for smuggling?
A: There were in fact some detainees detained for smuggling, some of them were paroled out with their families to UNHCR accommodations just last year in Nassau. They were found on board a boat trying to smuggle their way into the United States in May of this year.
In one particular case, the arrest took place by the United States Coast Guard. The three detainees who have brought the court action are believed to be former US permanent residents. The United States government has been asked to take them back. However, there is no decision as yet.
Q: What is their status?
A: Presently, three detainees are awaiting adjudication by the courts. The case has been adjourned at their request until the United States decides whether they can return or are in fact eligible for relocation to the United States. Meanwhile, they are being held in prison.
Q: How many are there?
A: These are the only three detainees the protestors are concerned about. They are trying to make it appear that they have a general interest in migrant welfare. I am of the opinion that the protesters do not have any interest beyond these three detainees.
Q: Is it true that the State Department has gotten involved and is now interviewing the detainees?
A: I am advised that U.S. Customs and Border protection have interviewed them and will advise us shortly as to whether or not they will be permitted to enter the United States. I am now advised by the U.S. that the decision will not be made known until August 5, on Monday coming.
I wish to add that Bahamians are shocked and fed up with these protests.
Bahamian nationals spend one billion dollars in Florida’s economy annually.
Many merchants in Florida owe their profits to Bahamian customers.
It is reprehensible that The Bahamas is being attacked in this way, apparently with official sanction.
It is simply outrageous.
The protesters are in the United States therefore if they want these detainees in the United States they should use their influence to have them returned to the United States.
Should the United States authorities approve, the detainees can be released to the authorities as early as tomorrow.'