NASSAU, Bahamas – Bahamian authorities will decide whether to deport seven Cuban migrants the U.S. Coast Guard rescued from a remote island in the Caribbean country, officials said Friday.
The migrants were still aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter Friday afternoon, but because they were rescued from Elbow Cay it will be up to Bahamian authorities to determine whether they will remain in the Bahamas or sent back to Cuba, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss said.
William MacDonald, assistant director for the Bahamas immigration agency, said the migrants would have to prove they faced persecution in communist Cuba to be granted political refugee status in his country, otherwise they will be deported.
An eighth migrant found on Elbow Cay was flown to Florida for medical treatment. Because he reached dry ground in the United States, he will likely be able to remain in that country.
The migrants told the Coast Guard they were part of a group of 14 who left Cuba on Jan. 13 in an attempt to reach Florida and that six people died before they had landed on Elbow Cay on Jan. 20.
They are not the migrants who were spotted by the Coast Guard aboard a rickety boat Jan. 26 about 46 miles southeast of Marathon. Authorities lost track of that boat in bad weather and called off the search after 48 hours.