Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2018, 08:05 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Bahamas

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1998
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Bahamas, 1 January 1998, available at: [accessed 22 February 2018]
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.

At the end of 1997, the Bahamas hosted 59 refugees. All were Cuban except for one Nigerian and one Liberian. During the year, 205 asylum seekers‹200 Cubans, 4 Russians, and 1 Nigerian‹filed claims. Bahamian authorities approved 16 cases and denied 189. The four Russians resettled in the United States. No asylum claims were pending at year's end.

Interdicted migrants, mostly Haitians and Cubans, but Dominicans and others as well, are held at the Carmichael Road Detention Center, controlled by immigration officials and Bahamian security forces. In October, detainees rioted, protesting poor conditions.

Although the Bahamas acceded to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol in 1993, as of December 1997, it had not enacted implementing legislation or developed a procedure for adjudicating refugee claims. In 1997, Bahamian authorities accepted UNHCR recognition of refugees by releasing them from detention and granting them asylum.

A 1996 memorandum of understanding between the Bahamas and Cuba authorized the Bahamas to repatriate Cuban asylum seekers already in the Bahamas and to deport newly arriving undocumented Cubans immediately upon arrival. The agreement included no provision for determining whether Cuban asylum seekers qualified for refugee status, nor any assurances the Cuban government would not punish the returnees.

In all, Bahamian authorities returned about 300 Cubans to Cuba in 1997. Before July, UNHCR could not review cases thoroughly prior to deportation. During that time, about 100 Cubans were involuntarily returned.

On December 30, the Bahamian authorities forcibly repatriated to Cuba a UNHCR-recognized refugee despite UNHCR's attempts to intervene on the refugee's behalf. That same day, the U.S. Coast Guard brought to Freeport two Cuban baseball players and six of their boatmates who had been stranded on a small island after they escaped from Cuba. USCR wrote an opinion column in the Washington Post pointing out the disparities in U.S. refugee policy in the Caribbean. USCR also criticized the Bahamas for committing refoulement, the forced return of a refugee, an act prohibited by international law.

The Bahamian authorities returned about 500 Haitians during the year. In 1995, the Bahamas initiated the first major crackdown on Haitians when it returned about 5,300 to Haiti. An estimated 15,000 to 40,000 Haitians remained in the Bahamas. Neither UNHCR nor the Bahamas recognized any as refugees.

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