Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2016, 13:27 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Bahamas

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Bahamas , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c147c.html [accessed 24 August 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Bahamas hosted some 100 refugees recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2001. Most were Cubans, while the rest were from countries in Africa. During the year, 23 persons filed asylum claims. Half were from Cuba; the rest came from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, China, and Pakistan. No cases were approved in 2001. Two asylum seekers recommended by UNHCR for approval were awaiting decisions at year's end.

The Bahamas has not enacted legislation implementing the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol, which the government adopted in 1993. Although the Bahamas has established ad hoc procedures for refugee status determinations that generally comply with international standards, Haitians may not have the same access to these procedures as Cubans and others.

UNHCR-trained Bahamian immigration authorities conduct asylum interviews and make recommendations to the immigration director. UNHCR evaluates all claims and makes its own recommendations to the director. When the immigration director finds that an individual qualifies for asylum, the case is forwarded to the Ministerial Cabinet, which makes the final decision to grant asylum. When the director determines that an individual does not qualify for asylum, the individual is ordered deported without the Ministerial Cabinet's involvement in the process.

Recognized refugees are issued a 1951 Convention travel document, valid for one year. Refugee status and work authorization are temporary and must be renewed annually. Children of refugees are automatically given refugee status; children born in the Bahamas to refugees – including Haitians – may apply for citizenship during the year following their eighteenth birthday.

The Bahamas detains undocumented asylum seekers upon arrival. The period of detention can be lengthy; in some instances, refugees remained detained for up to six months after receiving refugee status. Detention conditions have improved since the Carmichael Road detention facility (where all migrants and asylum seekers are held) was reconstructed in 2000. Persons legally in the country who apply for asylum are not generally detained.

A 1998 repatriation agreement between the Bahamas and Cuba authorizes the Bahamas to deport undocumented Cubans immediately upon arrival. According to UNHCR, the Bahamian government screens all Cubans to identify potential asylum seekers, and any Cuban expressing a fear of persecution has full access to the refugee determination process. Additionally, the Bahamas does not provide Cuban authorities with the names of Cuban asylum seekers until the refugee determination process is complete.

As violence escalated in Haiti during the year, Haitians applied for asylum in increasing numbers in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and other countries. However, no asylum applications from Haitians were recorded in the Bahamas.

Despite Bahamian government assurances that no Haitians requested asylum during 2001, the lack of applications may indicate that Haitians do not have sufficient access to the Bahamas' refugee status determination procedures. The Bahamas returned 6,253 Haitians in 2001. In July, Amnesty International protested the return of 130 Haitians who were shipwrecked in the Bahamas, expressing concern that the Bahamian government did not provide the Haitians with an opportunity to apply for asylum.

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