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    Panama grants asylum to 19 Cubans held by Bahamas

    Posted on Sunday, 08.11.13

    Panama grants asylum to 19 Cubans held by Bahamas

    PANAMA CITY — Panama’s government is granting asylum on humanitarian
    grounds for 19 Cuban migrants who are being detained in the Bahamas, the
    Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

    Its statement said President Ricardo Martinelli made the decision to
    accept the request for asylum, adding that Panama has historically been
    a country that offers asylum for humanitarian reasons.

    The ministry didn’t identify the Cubans involved or say when they might
    come to Panama.

    It also didn’t give any details on the conditions of the asylum seekers,
    but alluded to criticism by rights groups over the treatment of Cubans
    detained in the Bahamas after being stopped on suspicion of trying to
    immigrate illegally to the United States.

    “The complaints from international human rights groups, which have
    alerted about the treatment received by Cuban citizens detained in the
    Bahamas, has been one of the considerations in this decision of the
    government,” the Foreign Ministry said.

    Activists in Florida allege that Cuban detainees in the Bahamas have
    been beaten by guards, denied adequate food, water and medical care, and
    deprived of the ability to file asylum claims.

    One of those groups is the Miami-based “Democracy Movement,” led by
    Ramon Saul Sanchez. He and another member of the group, Alexis Jesus
    Gomez, decided to end their weeks-long hunger strike in Little Havana
    after learning of Panama’s announcement.

    The two plan to end their strike Monday, and said they were grateful for
    the decision.

    “Today we would like to thank Mr. Raymond Molina and attorney Lorenzo
    Palomeras together with Vice Mayor of Doral Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera
    and Ambassador Guillermo Cachez for their negotiations with the
    Panamanian government and especially President Martinelli,” Sanchez said
    in a statement.

    The group also said that the Bahamian government had agreed to install
    cameras in the detention center and to work with the United Nations to
    expand and make improvements to the center, according to the statement.

    Both the U.S. government and United Nations have criticized conditions
    in the Bahamas’ detention center for migrants, who mostly come from Cuba
    and Haiti. The sparsely populated island chain is frequently used as a
    transit zone by people trying to reach the nearby United States and its
    security force regularly detains boatloads of migrants and deports most
    back to their homelands.

    Bahamian officials deny any abuse and are angered over calls in Florida
    for a tourism boycott.

    “Bahamians are quite fed up with this attack on our country, which in
    our view is unfair,” Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said this past week.
    “We spend $1 billion in the Florida economy every year. What’s the point
    in trying to damage our economy?”

    Source: “PANAMA CITY: Panama grants asylum to 19 Cubans held by Bahamas
    - Cuba –” –

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