Government must address Detention Center complaints

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Female Dorms at the Detention Centre

STATEMENT
By Rights Bahamas

Rights Bahamas has received disturbing reports concerning the methods currently being employed at the Carmichael Road Detention Center.

Relatives have complained of cruel and degrading behavior by staff at the center, for example the practice of arbitrarily shortening visiting periods from the scheduled three hours to only a few minutes. The result is that many of those waiting are granted no visit at all. We are told that anyone who complains has their visit ended immediately.

English is not the first language of many of the individuals in the center, yet we are told that guards demand that the visits be conducted in English. Failure to comply results in the immediate termination of the visit.

Visitors are allowed to bring food to the detainees, however it has been reported that many do not receive some or all of what is left for them from the guards.

We are told that complaints regarding the above behavior tend to be met with degrading and xenophobic remarks by the guards.

When such complains have arisen in the past, to the extent that they have been investigated at all, it is usually by the Department of Immigration itself, which invariably finds them to be false. This practice is neither transparent nor impartial and it is clearly susceptible to bias. It is therefore unacceptable.

Rights Bahamas calls on the government to appoint an independent entity to investigate these and other claims – perhaps a committee drawn from the various local advocacy groups – and report its findings to Cabinet. We remind the government that the Bahamas is already under precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) over the inhumane and degrading conditions at the Detention Center.

Thanks to the recent announcement of yet another immigration crackdown on December 31, international human rights groups are once again scrutinizing The Bahamas closely over how it handles issue of undocumented migration. We urge the Minnis administration to step in and address the serious problems at the Detention Center before our international reputation suffers further damage.

We also remind the government that the Detention Center remains an illegal facility, operating outside the rule of law. Its existence is not legitimated by any Act of Parliament and those who run it remain, in statutory terms, answerable to no one.

– Rights Bahamas, formerly the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, promotes individual rights, personal freedoms, transparency, accountability and the rule of law in The Bahamas.