Written by IDC Regional Advisor for the Caribbean Veronica B.Y. Aragón, Deputy Director of the International Human Rights Clinic of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles


The Caribbean has long been a mixed migration route and source, transit and destination place for irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Yet, there is little to no information about the policies and practices of the vast majority of Caribbean States, where human rights compliance in the context of mixed migration – from arbitrary bases and duration of detention, to deplorable detention conditions, discretionary status determinations, and due process violations in proceedings and deportations – is a largely invisible issue. The little information available has never been organized in a cohesive, comprehensive manner.

In this regard, specific attention was drawn to the Caribbean towards the end of 2014 during the Inter-American Human Rights Commission hearing on immigration detention in the Americas region and the Cartagena +30 Brasilia Declaration and Plan of Action. Parallel to our participation in the regional mapping project coordinated by IDC last year, the International Human Rights Clinic of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles (IHRC-LLS) has gone a step further and undertaken the daunting task of systematizing all information publically available on the policies and practices of all 16 sovereign States, U.K. overseas territories, the Dutch Caribbean, and French Overseas Departments.

Due to the general lack of accessible data on all aspects of migration detention, the IHRC-LLS would like to reach out to IDC members and partners who have information or contacts working in the Caribbean to contribute to a more comprehensive regional analysis.

By the fall of 2015, the IHRC-LLS will publish the data, as well as an analysis of overarching regional trends, particularly egregious violations and examples of better practices, including identification of alternatives to detention.

Preliminary analysis already indicates not only a lower ratification rate of international human rights instruments and those specifically addressing refugee and stateless populations, but also significant areas of non-compliance with international human rights law and international refugee law. With the exception of the Dominican Republic, there is also a general shortage of civil society organizations devoted to migration detention issues, with some countries such as Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Lucia and Dominica completely lacking in such civil society presence. Importantly, many Caribbean States such as Barbados and Jamaica have not significantly updated their migration laws since the 1940s and lack a legislative or regulatory framework to address the needs of international protected persons. Belize is one of the few countries in the region to enact such population-specific framework, although it still falls well short of minimum international standards when it comes to implementation.

These policy gaps, in turn, result in excessively broad exercise of discretion on the part of immigration and/or judicial officers, resulting in arbitrary detention of migrants. Additionally, because of a lack of independent oversight and monitoring, conditions of detention fall far below minimum standards under international law, as highlighted by the Inter-American Commission on human Rights in its recently issued precautionary measures with respect to the Carmichael Immigration Detention Center in the Bahamas.

The anticipated publication will only be the first step in creating a strategic plan of action for migration reform in the Caribbean, encompassing future data collection and analysis, direct advocacy, civil society capacity-building, and engagement with international human rights bodies. To that end, the IHRC-LLS welcomes the involvement of all IDC members and partners who are interested.

To contribute to the report or for more information, please contact Veronica B. Y. Aragón at [email protected].

For further information on the work of IHRC-LLS, please visit www.lls.edu/intlclinic.