The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has a global mandate to ensure the protection and fair treatment of persons fleeing persecution, conflict and other forms of violence. In the Caribbean region, UNHCR works with individual states and promotes regional cooperation to achieve this end.
At the end of 2012, UNHCR recorded over 2,500 persons intercepted in the Caribbean region over the course of the year. Many Caribbean states use detention to control these migration flows within their territories. Overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate procedural safeguards currently characterize immigration detention centers throughout the Caribbean region.
Recent reports in the media have drawn attention to conditions in the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, a facility that the Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas uses primarily to hold Cuban and Haitian refugees and asylum-seekers.
For years, UNHCR has engaged The Bahamas in dialogue to increase protection for refugees and asylum-seekers through improvements to due process, access to asylum and conditions at this facility.
While further fundamental changes are needed to make practices and conditions consistent with basic international standards, UNHCR is encouraged by recent steps taken by the Government, which include proposing new regulations to address conditions, approving a budget for detention facility infrastructure upgrades, using more humane and cost effective alternatives to detention for refugees, and taking preliminary measures to establish a fair asylum process.
UNHCR calls upon the Government of The Bahamas to institutionalize this asylum process into law, making it accessible to persons of all nationalities and to fully implement the reforms proposed to improve detention conditions.
Similar facilities are used throughout the region as the default response to managing migration flows. UNHCR calls upon all governments in the Caribbean to ensure refugee and asylum-seekers are treated humanely and fairly in a manner consistent with international obligations.