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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Govt Denies Violating Rights of Asylum Seekers

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade and Immigration are refuting claims in a Tribune article which claimed that the rights of asylum seekers in the Bahamas are violated by the government.

The combined ministries addressed the claims in a joint statement stating that at no time have the rights of any detainees been violated. The ministries said it is satisfied that there has been full compliance with established protocols, as well as with both international law and domestic law.

Why it matters

In recent days, Kenyan native Douglas Ngumi, claimed unlawful detention for more than six years and was awarded $641,950 in damages by the Supreme Court. He said he endured cruel and inhumane treatment at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

What did the Tribune article say

  • The local daily quotes allegations by watchdog human rights group, Rights Bahamas, which accuses the Immigration Department of detaining seven asylum seekers who fled a violent sectarian conflict in Cameroon where they were targeted as members of a minority group.
  • The rights group tells the Tribune that some of the asylum seekers have been held for more than a year though not charged or convicted of a crime in the Bahamas

Who are the asylum seekers

    • Patrick Awara Tarh, who fled his country after many of his political colleagues were arrested and jailed.
    • Violet Acha Werengie fled Cameroon for Nigeria after being tortured, raped and almost killed by armed government troops. She is currently in “Fox Hill prison” after being arraigned in court on assault charges last week. She has a young child, Sama Eliana Itoh, from whom she has been separated.
    • Carine Valerie Nguesap
    • Anye Celestine Ngang
    • Ndi Tinong, and Ahmed Mbia Mambingo.
    • Elvis Forwang and Perpetua Forwang — two siblings, though no longer detained at the Detention Centre for health reasons, they remain under immigration surveillance.

What the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Immigration say

  • The Bahamas Government, in accordance with these commitments, complies with international standards to ensure the rights of detainees are fully respected until such time as they are repatriated to their countries of origin.
  • There is a well-defined process in place that is carried out by the Government and the UNHCR to screen such persons in order to determine if they qualify for refugee status.
  • The repatriation of detainees to their countries has been compounded by the pandemic, in particular border closures and the lack of international flights.
  • The Government and the UNHCR have remained in close contact during this period in order to complete the process of screening, and the UNHCR representative visited the Detention Centre on several occasions and made no reports of violations to the Government.

Featured Image: The Tribune

From left to right: Carine Valerie Ngue, Ahmed Mbia Mambingo, Patrick Awara Tarh and Sama Eliana Itoh, whose mother Violet Acha Werengie is in Fox Hill prison.

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