UNHCR in the United States and the Caribbean
UNHCR provides information on the laws, policies and procedures for seeking asylum and related protection in the U.S. to asylum seekers, particularly those in immigration detention, to non-governmental organizations and to attorneys and others assisting asylum seekers.
Throughout all these endeavors, UNHCR maintains close communication with government partners at the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and other agencies to ensure our cooperative relationship is maintained.
UNHCR’s Regional Office in Washington covers 15 Caribbean states and 9 overseas territories in Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago; the British overseas territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands; and the Dutch overseas territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten. UNHCR's Office in The Hague oversees activities in Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius. UNHCR’s Office in Paris oversees activities in the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana, while the Regional Office in Panama oversees activities in Cuba.
The Caribbean region is confronted with an increasingly complex phenomenon of mixed migration that involves asylum-seekers, refugees, victims of human trafficking and stateless persons, along with other categories of vulnerable migrants. The States and territories in the Caribbean themselves are source, destination and transit countries for thousands of individuals crossing an international border, including persons in need of international protection, each year.
While the vast majority of countries in the Caribbean have ratified or acceded to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, few currently have legislation, policies or regulations governing refugee protection and asylum. Additionally, territorial application of the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Protocol have not been extended in many of the overseas territories.
As a result, in lieu of government procedures, UNHCR engages in refugee status determination under its Mandate. To do so, UNHCR staff conduct individual interviews with asylum-seekers and examine country of origin information to determine if the applicant qualifies as a refugee in accordance with the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol.
In parallel, UNHCR works directly with governments within the Caribbean to develop effective refugee protection systems. UNHCR facilitates trainings to further capacity building, provides technical guidance and other support to government counterparts and advocates for refugee protection in line with international standards. UNHCR also promotes consistent approaches and responsibility-sharing mechanisms.
In the absence of applicable legislation or policies, refugees in many Caribbean countries and due to limited local integration prospects, resettlement to a third country often remains the only available durable solution.
Statelessness in the Caribbean remains a major concern for UNHCR. UNHCR’s activities in the region aim to resolve the existing situations of statelessness and progressively eradicating statelessness throughout the region.
To achieve these goals, UNHCR provides support to those individuals who are stateless or who are at risk of statelessness by assisting with naturalization procedures, obtaining documentation to verify their nationality or otherwise working to find solutions to their status.
Furthermore, UNHCR provides technical advice on nationality legislation and promotes the removal of gaps in nationality laws and practice that may give rise to statelessness. UNHCR conducts advocacy to eradicate statelessness, including through promoting accession to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and provides training and capacity building to stakeholders on the prevention and reduction of statelessness.
Throughout the Caribbean region, UNHCR works in close partnership with a network of local organizations, including National Red Cross Societies and other non-governmental organizations, to conduct its protection activities. UNHCR’s local partners often serve as the first point of contact for its population of concern and engage in activities such as identifying asylum-seekers and ensuring access to refugee status determination procedures, providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable persons of concern, funded by UNHCR; and assisting refugees in obtaining access to rights and services in the country of asylum.