Washington D.C. (June 12, 2020)—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights joins local human rights activists to express concern about the situation of migrants currently detained at Carmichael Road Immigrant Detention Center (“Carmichael Detention Center”) in The Bahamas, particularly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, detainees’ concerns about COVID-19 in the facility led to a hunger strike by Haitian migrants, a physical altercation in a dormitory, and the calling of the police. Local advocates report that they have been unable to gain access to the facility to monitor conditions inside.
UN agencies and migration experts have highlighted the heightened risk to migrants, particularly those in immigration detention, amid the COVID-19 epidemic. The Bahamas’ suspension of returns may lead to a prolonged period of vulnerability and a heightened risk of infection for all. The UN Migration Network and UNHCR have encouraged States to use alternatives to immigration detention where possible. Conditions in places of immigration detention should be improved by ensuring that detainees are able to protect themselves from COVID-19 and have access to health services. They also recommend that migrants in detention have access to legal services and that independent monitoring actors are guaranteed access to places of detention during the pandemic.
We remind the Bahamian government that since 2015 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR”) has had active precautionary measures in place requesting that the government undertake these same actions to preserve the rights to life and personal integrity of detainees at Carmichael Detention Center. Its compliance with these measures is even more critical in the current context.
We cannot disregard that these events at Carmichael Detention Center occur amid an ongoing culture of racism and xenophobia in The Bahamas, particularly towards Haitian migrants, who make up the majority of detainees at Carmichael Detention Center.
We urge The Bahamas to ensure that human rights for all people in The Bahamas, to include detainees in Carmichael Detention Center, is at the heart of its response to COVID-19. The government must ensure it complies with the IACHR’s precautionary measures and current international guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Carmichael Detention Center, including ensuring civil society access to monitor conditions there. Everyone in Bahamian territory, regardless of their migration status, must be provided with the necessary protections and care during these times of uncertainty.