Regional Mapping Report on Trends in Migration Policies and Practices across the Caribbean

Students Ally Gonzalez and Jennine Nwoko posing for a post-interview photo with an attorney from the Nigerian High Commission

In the Fall of 2014, the clinic started a comprehensive mapping of the policies, practices and key actors relating to migration detention affecting vulnerable populations, including refugees, stateless persons, LGBTI, children and trafficking victims in all 16 sovereign states of the Caribbean region, as well as the Dutch and U.K. territories. Despite the fact that the area is a significant point of transit and trafficking from the global south to the United States, Canada and Europe, there is very little information about how these populations are treated by law and in practice in Caribbean countries. Beginning with country-specific data collection, clinic students analyzed the data to identify regional trends, as well as outliers, in relation to international human rights standards.

Ultimately, the report will be the springboard for future action in the Caribbean on these issues, with respect to future research/investigation, advocacy, capacity building and international engagement. The mapping project has been carried out by clinic students, in collaboration with NGOs in the various Caribbean states and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Detention Coalition.

In March 2016, the students of the International Human Rights Clinic travelled to Trinidad and Tobago to carry out a human rights fact-finding mission related to the Caribbean mapping project.  Supervised by Professors Mary Hansel and Veronica Aragon, the students honed their attorney skill set by preparing for and conducting in-depth interviews regarding the country’s treatment of irregular migrants. Interviewees included government officials, a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, case advocates from local migrants’ rights organizations, an attorney with the Nigerian consulate, as well as several migrants with an array of demographic backgrounds.

The students will use the information gathered from these interviews to draft a report analyzing the country’s development and implementation of alternatives to detention (ATDs) for migrants. Currently, many migrants arriving in Trinidad and Tobago are held in a highly controversial detention center. Refugees and asylum-seekers, however, are generally allowed to live in the community, albeit subject to orders of governmental supervision and without work permits. The students’ report will evaluate this ATD scheme under applicable international human rights standards and set forth recommendations for modification and possible expansion. The hope is that Trinidad and Tobago may eventually serve as a model for the Caribbean region with respect to its migration policies and practices.

The report will be co-authored by law students from the University of the West Indies (UWI), alongside whom the Clinic students conceptualized the mission and conducted their interviews. This collaboration has fostered a cross-cultural exchange between the two schools that has greatly enhanced the students’ experience and the mission itself.

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Loyola and UWI students meeting with the UNHCR representative for Trinidad and Tobago