Hurricane forces Guantanamo Bay evacuations, but detainees remain

World Today

Dawn at Guantanamo BayDawn arrives at the now closed Camp X-Ray, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Cuba is bracing for Hurricane Matthew, which is packing 100-plus-mile winds. The Guantanamo Bay Naval base has already been partially evacuated in anticipation of the storm, but the base currently has no plan to move the 61 detainees remaining at the detention facility.

The evacuations are so far only for “non-essential” personnel, The Miami Herald reported, and the facility has not addressed who else from the nearly 6,000-person base would be flown to safety.

As of now, the 61 detainees will remain at the base during the hurricane.

While it is not currently under consideration, if detainees were to be moved from the detention facility, a host of complex political, legal, and diplomatic factors would come into play. For example, if detainees were to be moved to anywhere on U.S. soil, it would legally be considered a transfer.

In September, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill blocking the transfer of any Guantanamo detainees — even to a foreign country. The White House has threatened to veto the measure.

On Sunday, military cargo planes evacuated about 700 troops and their family members, along with staff on the base, to Pensacola, Florida, the Herald reported. The evacuations took place as Cuba declared a hurricane alert for some of its provinces.

The prisons where the detainees are being held “can withstand the current projected storm strength,” the facility’s spokesman, Navy Captain John Filostrat told the Herald. If and when the storm hits the base, the detainees would “shelter in place,” Filostrat said.

The Navy base is preparing for “the worst-case scenario,” said the base commander, Navy Captain David Culpepper, the The Miami Herald reported. At worst, the base is bracing for a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane that could hit the base directly.

Story compiled with information from The Associated Press and the Miami Herald.