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17 February 2021 – Barbados

Loop News, “HMP Dodds Following Health Protocols During COVID-19,” 19 April 2020,”
Loop News, “HMP Dodds Following Health Protocols During COVID-19,” 19 April 2020,”

The small Caribbean island of Barbados, part of the British Commonwealth, has recently experienced a sharp spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. As of 14 February 2021, Barbados had 2,061 positive cases of COVID-19. Nearly 80 percent of these cases have been reported since the start of 2021; Barbados had reported only 383 positive cases as of 31 December 2020.

An outbreak in early January 2021 in HMP Dodds Prison has been called the nation’s largest COVID-19 cluster, and counted 363 infected persons at its peak: 261 inmates, 85 officers, and 17 staff. Reports indicated that as of 1 February the situation had been stabilised because of “extensive sanitation, preventive scanning, testing, quarantining, […] isolation of prison officers, civilian staff, and inmates at Dodds,” in addition to expanding medical facilities and ventilation capacities (Nation News, 01.02.21).

The government’s policies to curb the pandemic from March until May 2020 included widespread testing and a curfew — initially a night curfew, which was later extended to be a 24-hour curfew. The measures in HMP Dodds Prison included quarantining newly entering prisoners for 14 days, temperature-taking, isolation of people with symptoms, testing, and banning external visits. In the light of the new surge in cases in 2021, new measures were introduced in the country on 1 January and tightened on 3 February, including a curfew, limited shop openings, banning public gatherings, and mask obligations.

The government did not close its borders after the onset of the pandemic and received a limited number of international commercial flights from the U.S. and UK in particular. Cruise ships were also allowed to dock on or anchor around the island while awaiting further operations. However, the government imposed mandatory quarantine for travellers entering the country and there have been numerous instances of non-citizens who broke it being ordered to pay a fine of BAD$6,000 before being allowed to leave. One recent case has gathered attention for its particular severity — a 49-year-old Jamaican was sentenced to 6 months in prison after not being given enough time to gather money for the fine.

The country’s Immigration Act (February 1976) provides that “A person who is refused permission to enter Barbados may be detained in custody by an immigration officer or a member of the Police Force in such place as the Minister approves until he is removed from Barbados.”

The U.S. Department of State 2018 Human Rights Practices Report for Barbados mentions that the country does not have legal provisions for granting asylum or refugee status.

There is little available information about how many people are detained for immigration- or asylum-related reasons or the extent to which the country imposes migrant-related detention measures.