back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

29 March 2021 – Marshall Islands

A quarantine centre in Majuro. Photo: Giff Johnson (RNZ,
A quarantine centre in Majuro. Photo: Giff Johnson (RNZ, "Marshalls Increases Repatriation Numbers, Readies Vaccine," 1 April 2021, )

The Marshall Islands, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean located between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii, had recorded only four COVID-19 cases as of 17 March 2021. The country has also grappled with another infectious disease, dengue fever, having experienced three outbreaks since 2019. As of March 2021, two deaths and 3,884 cases of dengue-like illness were recorded, of which 1,987 have been lab-confirmed. An associated state of the United States, the Marshall Islands has benefited from US good ties by receiving enough vaccine doses to be able to vaccinate its entire adult population, who make up around 40-50 percent of its 70,000-80,000 inhabitants, no later than June 2021.

The Marshall Islands has experienced significant emigration, as approximately one third of the population has relocated to the United States. The IOM has argued that the labour migration from the islands to the United States is symptomatic of the increasing strain that climate change and environmental disasters are putting on local economies and livelihoods in the Pacific islands.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Marshall Islands prison conditions, government corruption, and domestic violence have constituted the main human rights challenges. Other human rights violations included lack of legal provisions protecting workers’ rights, child abuse, and sex trafficking. Foreign workers make up about a third of the workforce (excluding agroforestry). Prison conditions have been described as harsh and at times degrading — infrastructure at Majuro jail was lacking proper ventilation, lighting, and sanitation. Another jail in Ebeye has been described by observers as degrading for detainees due to its cramped cells.

The GDP has been unable to establish whether foreigners are detained in the Marshall Islands, for immigration-related reasons. According to the Immigration and Emigration (Amendment) Act of 1991, detention for up to 14 days may be ordered for anyone facing deportation measures. The country also has no asylum or refugee protection legislation or programmes in place.