Bahamas deports Cuban refugees despite protests

Anti-Castro campaigners in Miami Anti-Castro campaigners in Miami went on hunger strike to try to stop the deportations

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The government of the Bahamas has deported back to Cuba 24 refugees who had applied for asylum in the United States and other countries.

Campaigners in the US have accused the Bahamas of putting the lives of the refugees in danger by sending them back to the communist-run island.

The Bahamas has become a transit point for economic and political refugees who arrive by boat from Cuba and Haiti.

The authorities say the archipelago cannot afford to house all refugees.

Dozens of refugees have been deported by Nassau to Cuba in past years.

'Beaten, tortured, deported'

The overwhelmingly anti-communist Cuban community in Miami has campaigned against the refugees' return to Havana.

Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Democracy Movement pressure group, said some 40 Cubans were being kept in squalid conditions in Bahamian detention centres.

"They treat them badly, they torture them and then they deport them," Mr Sanchez told El Nuevo Herald in Florida.

The government in Nassau denied that the Cuban detainees had been subject to beatings or torture.

Mr Sanchez, 58, and Alexis Gomez, 45, went on hunger strike in central Miami to raise awareness of the deportation problem.

Campaigners were hopeful that the deportation would be halted after reports emerged that 19 of the 24 refugees had been offered "humanitarian asylum" in Panama.

But Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said he had not received a formal communication from the Central American nation.

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