U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Bahamas
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||1 June 2000|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Bahamas , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8ce34.html [accessed 24 July 2016]|
The Bahamas hosted 122 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly Cubans (98) and west Africans, in 1999. During the year, 420 persons filed asylum claims. The Bahamian authorities approved 22 and denied 417, a five percent approval rate. Two Burundian refugees, a father and daughter, were resettled to Sweden during the year.
A 1998 repatriation agreement between the Bahamas and Cuba authorizes the Bahamas to deport newly arriving undocumented Cubans immediately upon arrival. The agreement does not provide for determining whether Cuban asylum seekers qualify for refugee status, nor any assurances the Cuban government will not punish the returnees. However, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Bahamian government screens all migrants, and any migrant expressing a fear of persecution has access to the refugee determination process. The Bahamas does not provide Cuban authorities with the names of Cuban migrants until the refugee determination process is complete. During the year, the Bahamas returned 283 Cubans.
The Bahamas also returned nearly 3,000 Haitians based on the terms of a repatriation agreement with Haiti that expired in 1995. According to press reports, during a two-day period in March, the Bahamas returned 342 Haitians, including 114 rescued from a boat that sank off the Bahamian coast. Increasing numbers of migrants from Europe, Asia, and Africa have also been interdicted in Bahamian waters.
Despite the absence of legislation implementing the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol, which the Bahamas adopted in 1993, the consistency and quality of the Bahamas' refugee determination process improved during the year. UNHCR-trained Bahamian immigration authorities conduct refugee status determinations and 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 finds that an individual does not qualify for asylum, the individual is ordered deported without the Ministerial Cabinet's involvement in the process.
UNHCR closely monitors and evaluates the refugee determination process, and reports that the Bahamian authorities regularly accept and implement its recommendations.
All asylum seekers are detained until the Ministerial Cabinet makes a decision on their claims, and detention conditions are poor. Although in principle recognized refugees are immediately released, sometimes they are kept in detention until the Ministerial Cabinet makes a final decision, which can amount to a lengthy period of time. During the year, UNHCR negotiated an agreement with the government that would release recognized refugees to the custody of the Salvation Army.
Since Hurricane Floyd destroyed the Carmichael Road Detention Center in Nassau in September 1999, asylum seekers have been detained at the women's quarters at Foxhill Prison. Repair of the Carmichael Road facility is scheduled to be complete in April 2000.