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March 08, 2006



au contraire my trusty op editorialist...their visas were expired that's why the coast guard left them on that cay for us to deal with...they should have been shipped home way back when...so we wouldnt find ourselves in this present situation. I blame Fred Mitchell for being asleep at the switch, or maybe he wanted it to go down like this. Where was he, on one of his rendezvous abroad doing god knows what? We have no choice now, our relationship with the US has been tarnished so that we have to send them to our good friends to the North.

larry smith

Technically yes, but they were prevented from leaving before their visas had expired. And the Americans have since made it clear that they do have permission to enter the US.

They have also applied for political asylum, with no response from our government.

And, as you say, technically they should have been sent to Cuba long ago.

The USCG turned them over to Bahamian authorities because they were picked up in Bahamian waters (with Bahamian law enforcement officers on board).

Roger Pinder

Hurrah and hurray.Your article was well written and well put.

It is unfortunate that in this day and age governments on obviously many political fronts and political persuations still permit and assist each other to hold a human being as a hostage and or prisoner because of inaction.

Shame on The Bahamas authorities for failing in an obvious misinterpratation of an agreement. We are speaking of the higer law of morality in regard to the Cuban dentists.They should have been sent to the US 10 months ago befor a problem was created by our inaction.

It would indeed be a black day for The Bahamas and indeed a travestry if those people are either not given political asylum in The Bahamas or sent to whichever country they have legal documents for and desire to go to.


By the way, the Bahamas would need a proper refugee determination process and amended bilateral agreements with Cuba and the US to acheive your recommendations..... By the way, being a 'denist in Cuba' doesn't necessarily mean you have a well-founded fear or persecution (according to the 1951 Convention definition) and should be given asylum. I often wonder why Bahamians are more sympathetic to professionals from Cuba rather than labours from countries full of human rights abuses and political strife (not mentioning any names, eh hem) in terms of granting refugee status.

larry Smith

Since there are already UN-classified refugees here (including a Nigerian lawyer and a Cuban doctor), I assume that there is such a determination process.

No preference for one class over another was suggested or intended. The dentists had visas and were prevented from leaving. The Americans have since revalidated their visas.

If a Haitian farmer drifts ashore here with a US visa should we send him back to Haiti? Probably a bad analogy since he would presumably have been able to make some arrangement to go directly to the US.


1. States, not the UN, decides who is a refugee. The Bahamian refugee determination process is an ad hoc method as compared with a Refugee Board or something like this. Asylum status is determined by Cabinet (who are informed by decisions taken by Immigration, Foreign Affairs and UNHCR).

2. States look at bilateral agreements, then the multilateral ones. Take a look at the bilateral agreements Bahamas has with both Governments.

larry Smith

Just about everything the Bahamian government does is ad hoc.

I have read the agreements with Cuba.

You seem to be saying we have no choice. Why, then, are the dentists still here stirring up a storm?


The Bahamas is not obliged to give refugee status to Cuban professionals wanting to join their families in Florida. The Bahamas always has a choice. But this issue is less about asylum and more about politics. If the Prime Minister has been charged with resolving this issue he should act fast and not be deterred by pressure from the U.S. or Cuba. This is not the first time the Bahamas has been in this situation. Perhaps this is the first time the U.S. press has devoted so much energy on the issue. The Bahamian press also has a role in igniting these issues as well. The fear of thousands of Cubans fleeing to the Bahamas, etc is utter nonsense and greatly confuses people who are unfamiliar with the political and legal aspects of this issue.

In answer to the question, why are the dentists stirring up such a storm? Let me ask you, would you like to move to the detention centre for several months? If I were seeking asylum, I might go crazy after several months in the detention centre away from my family, friends, culture and food! Especially when I kept hearing that a decision is pending in my case. Detention of irregular or illegal migrants is against International Law—they haven’t committed a crime (other than violations of our immigration act) so they don’t deserve to be detained. These people still have rights. It isn’t fair to keep people detained under uncertain terms for months on end (there are some exceptions such as national security risks). For the dentists, leaking information to the press is one way them getting attention to their cases and hopefully be given an official response from the Government. It is a desperate tactic.

When a Cuban National or for that matter any non-Bahamian National is issued a U.S. Visa or has an expired U.S. visa in their passport, this is not a basis for a refugee claim. And just being form Cuba does not make you a refugee. You must have a well founded fear of persecution. You can’t just happen to be born in a Communist State or under a repressive regime or in a failed State (eg. decisions made with regard to denied asylum claims of Afghan refugees in various EU countries).

If the Prime Minister makes a determination (in conjunction with relevant authorities) on the asylum claims of Marialys Darias Mesa and David González Mesa it should be done swiftly and according to the definition of a refugee in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. If the Prime Minister determines that the dentists do not have a well-founded fear of persecution, then the bilateral agreement should be upheld and the dentists should be returned to Cuba immediately. This decision, however, would need to take into serious consideration the risk of non-refoulement.

Hypothetically, if the dentists were given asylum status in the Bahamas, they do not necessarily have the right to migrate to the U.S. There are thousands of refugees who would love to be resettled in the U.S. Why do you think the U.S. isn’t bothered by us detaining migrants? The point is if you are really a refugee, you would settle anywhere because returning you to your country would result in you being mistreated or possibly tortured or killed. If you read the testimony of refugees they give heart wrenching accounts of persecution and they claim that they would live anywhere. I would like to think that the Bahamas has a good standard of living and were someone granted refugee status, they would be welcomed by the community. I resent the depiction of the Bahamas in any other light.

Any other questions? Just teasing. I would so much rather be blogging about Cuban beans and rice. ….By the way, I posted something on your blog about the Bahamas’ voting at the UN…. check it out.

larry smith

While I appreciate your other points and may respond later, my latest question to you was - if we have no choice, why are they still here? That represents a choice other than sending them back.

The opinion point of my original article was that (a) this should have been dealt with at the outset, and (b) they had, and still have, legal access to the US and were prevented (against their will) from taking advantage of that access by a dictatorship.

If they can't be sent to the US, under the cirumstances, they should be given asylum.


I agree that the situation should have been dealt with at the outset. And according to Cuban laws and Bahamian laws they did not necessarily have legal access to the U.S. They left Cuba illegally and they arrived in the Bahamas illegally. Although, I'm not a lawyer and I'm sure there are several users with LLBs, JDs and LLMs that would explain the legality of their claim.

I am still amazed that people are surprised when the Government doesn't make an immediate policy decision. I always expected the Government to take at least a year for each policy decision- after all they have very little written policy, so as we both said everything is ad hoc and all of Cabinet must agree on any decision taken...between the one hour speeches, the back benchers snoring and everyone claiming to be the smart lawyer it is no wonder we make any policy decisions sometimes.

Rick Lowe

This controversy over the Cuban dentists, and the position that The Bahamas should abide by its agreement with Cuba, reminds me of what John Locke said many years ago: "The end of law is not to abolish or restrain it, but to preserve and enlarge freedom."
Returning those people to Cuba, when they have documents to go to the United States, does not preserve freedom, it places them back into a system they apparently wish to flee of their own free will, and is morally repugnant.
Maybe we should renegotiate our agreement with Cuba because surely we would not want to restrain people who seek a different or better way of life. An option we are fortunate enough to take for granted as Bahamians.

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