Refoulement: Due to a lack of training and awareness of refugee rights by officers at points of entry, reported cases of refoulement continued to occur at airport and ports.
Access to Asylum: The government has not passed legislation to implement its obligations under the 1951 UN Convention and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. In the absence of national refugee legislation, UNHCR registered all asylum seekers, conducted refugee status determinations on behalf of the government, and promoted durable solutions for all refugees recognized under UNHCR’s mandate.
The immigration law neither adequately considers the needs of persons in need of international protection nor provides for the granting of refugee status. The law does not provide for any exemption or nonpenalization of irregular entry or stay of asylum seekers or refugees. Persons who expressed a need for international protection could be subject to detention if they entered via irregular ways or overstayed their permitted time of entry without having presented themselves voluntarily to the authorities. Generally, the government observed the principle of nonrefoulement, but there were reported cases of persons who claimed asylum at the border or while in detention being returned to their country of origin. In principle refugees were granted full protection from refoulement and detention if presented to the Immigration Division upon applying for asylum. They lived throughout the country, worked illegally, and had access to public-health facilities and in limited circumstances, public education.
The Living Water Community (LWC), a local Roman Catholic nongovernmental organization (NGO) and UNHCR’s operational partner, was the first point of contact for persons in need of international protection. It provided orientation and counseling and notified the Ministry of National Security’s Immigration Division of the respective asylum applications. In close coordination with UNHCR, the LWC engaged in case management and provided psychosocial care and humanitarian assistance, including cash, housing assistance, and legal aid, among other services.
Pending parliament’s approval of implementing legislation, the Ministry of National Security’s Immigration Division authorized the stay of asylum seekers and refugees through the issuance of orders of supervision.
Employment: In the absence of legislation, neither refugees nor asylum seekers were permitted to work. They were sometimes subject to exploitation, including sexual exploitation.
Access to Basic Services: Refugee and asylum-seeking children had access to education, but the majority faced difficulty in enrolling in public schools due to insufficient spaces and other administrative obstacles. Refugees and asylum seekers had access to most primary health-care services. They did not have access to identity documents and were obliged to surrender their passports to the Immigration Division.
Durable Solutions: Due to the absence of national legislation that would allow for local integration, resettlement was traditionally the only durable solution for refugees in the country, but this was a difficult, due to lack of available spaces. UNHCR, the LWC, and the International Organization for Migration continued to collaborate on the identification, submission, and transfer of refugees in need of resettlement.
The government also closely collaborated with UNHCR by facilitating the resettlement of a few refugees recognized under its mandate in smaller Caribbean islands by allowing them to stay temporarily in the country to complete the formalities required for resettlement and then directly travel to their new asylum country.
In the first half of the year, seven individuals were resettled to the United States through this mechanism of regional cooperation.
Some refugees and asylum seekers abandoned their claims and left the country due to the lengthy processing time and lack of rights, particularly the right to work.