Jamaica

Not Available

Immigration detainees

2019

Not Available

Detained children

2017

5

New asylum applications

2019

23,468

International migrants

2019

3,000,000

Population

2020

Overview

Jamaica has experienced considerable emigration in recent decades, in particular to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The country does not have an official asylum reception system, but it has hosted a small refugee population, including several people from Venezuela. The majority of its refugees and asylum seekers are long-staying Haitians, many of whom have benefited from state-sponsored social assistance. A small percentage of Jamaica’s prison population are non-citizens, many of whom are foreigners arrested on drug charges. Although there is little information about immigration detention practices in Jamaica, observers have expressed concerns about poor detention conditions in the country.

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

11 October 2020

Minister Matthew Samuda is Shown the Cafeteria of the New Broughton Sunset Rehabilitation Adult Correctional Centre by Superintendent A., (Ian Allen,
Minister Matthew Samuda is Shown the Cafeteria of the New Broughton Sunset Rehabilitation Adult Correctional Centre by Superintendent A., (Ian Allen, "245 New COVID Cases; Four Inmates Positive, Too - Mask Wearing Not Mandatory for Prisoners," The Gleaner, 31 August 2020, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20200831/245-new-covid-cases-four-inmates-positive-too-mask-wearing-not)

Jamaica successfully avoided a large COVID-19 outbreak during the initial months of the pandemic. However, since late August 2020, the numbers of confirmed infections have surged, increasing the total number of cases to nearly 8,000 by October 2020. The government announced emergency measures in September, including curfews and limits to the size of public gatherings.

There does not appear to have been any particular measures taken with respect to migrants or asylum seekers in Jamaica. Although Jamaica is a party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it does not have corresponding asylum legislation and there are no official mechanisms in place to assist in the identification of asylum seekers. In 2019, Jamaica only received 5 applications for international protection, according to UNHCR. And although the refugee agency reported that there were no refugees in Jamaica that year, there were 121 displaced Venezuelans in the country. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) reported that in 2019, there were 23,468 international migrants in Jamaica.

The government has been slow to implement protective measures in prisons. As of 31 August, the government was still refusing to release low-risk detainees in high-density prisons to curb the virus’ spread. In addition, authorities do not make it compulsory for people within penal institutions to wear face masks. The director of the prisoner rights group “Stand Up For Jamaica” expressed concern that scores of inmates may be vulnerable to the spread of the virus, citing the country’s long-standing problem of overcrowding in prisons. Gullotta has called for the government to release low-risk prisoners, especially juvenile offenders who have not seen their relatives in months and are prone to psychological problems. Gullotta said that her “major concern was, in a place like prisons, where people are packed up and in a permanently overcrowded environment, the fact that people can enter means a huge risk for all of them.”

The government’s decision to not impose the wearing of face masks within penal institutions was defended by Minister Matthew Samuda who said that “mask wearing is only imposed on all those who work in the facilities because it’s the people who work within the facilities who could have brought it in.” Yet, on 31 August, four detainees tested positive at the Horizon penitentiary in Kingston. The detainees were placed in isolation and the facility suspended the admission of any new detainees. Two other detainees then tested positive for the virus on 22 September at the Tower Street prison, another Kingston prison.

Although the GDP has been unable to find any information about protections provided to immigration detainees in Jamaica, there are long-standing concerns that the country does not provide appropriate conditions of detention for people in immigration procedures. In 2017, the UN Committee on Migrant workers issued a series of recommendations in its “concluding observations” during the periodic review of Jamaica. The committee stated: “The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that its national laws, policies and practices adequately respect the right to liberty and the prohibition of arbitrary detention of migrant workers and members of their families, and in particular that it: (a) Amend the Aliens Act to include, as a priority response to irregular migration, alternatives to detention for migration-related administrative infractions and measures to ensure that detention is used only as an exceptional measure of last resort, in line with the Committee’s general comment No. 2 (2013) on the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families; (b) Ensure due process in all detention procedures within the State party’s jurisdiction, including in international waters; (c) Ensure that family members and children are not detained on the basis of their immigration status or, in the case of children, their parents’ status and adopt alternatives to detention that allow children to remain with family members and/or guardians; (d) Decriminalize irregular migration and ensure that migrant workers and members of their families have access to legal aid, effective remedies, justice and consular services, and that the guarantees enshrined in the Convention are upheld, in full compliance with articles 16 and 17 of the Convention; (e) Provide information on the number of migrant workers arrested, detained and expelled for immigration-related infractions, the reasons for their detention and expulsion and their detention conditions, including the length of detention.”


Last updated:

DETENTION, EXPULSION, AND INCARCERATION STATISTICS

Total number of immigration detainees by year
Not Available
2019
Total number of detained minors
Not Available
2017
Criminal prison population
3,866
2016
4,201
2013
Percentage of foreign prisoners
1.1
2016
1.5
2013
Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
138
2016
152
2013

DEMOGRAPHICS AND IMMIGRATION-RELATED STATISTICS

Population
3,000,000
2020
2,793,000
2015
International migrants
23,468
2019
23,200
2015
International migrants as a percentage of the population
0.8
2015
Refugees
15
2018
8
2016
12
2015
22
2014
Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
0.01
2016
Total number of new asylum applications
5
2019
17
2016
1
2013
Refugee recognition rate
100
2014
Stateless persons
0
2016
0
2015

SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)
5,104
2014
Remittances to the country
2,263
2014
Unemployment Rate
2014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD)
92.3
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
99 (High)
2015

DOMESTIC LAWS AND POLICIES

Legal tradition
Common law
2017

INTERNATIONAL LAW

Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
Ratio: 12/19
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted
Observation Date
0/7
0/7
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies
Recommendation Year
Committee on Migrant Workers § 37. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that its national laws, policies and practices adequately respect the right to liberty and the prohibition of arbitrary detention of migrant workers and members of their families, and in particular that it: (a) Amend the Aliens Act to include, as a priority response to irregular migration, alternatives to detention for migration-related administrative infractions and measures to ensure that detention is used only as an exceptional measure of last resort, in line with the Committee’s general comment No. 2 (2013) on the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families; (b) Ensure due process in all detention procedures within the State party’s jurisdiction, including in international waters; (c) Ensure that family members and children are not detained on the basis of their immigration status or, in the case of children, their parents’ status and adopt alternatives to detention that allow children to remain with family members and/or guardians; (d) Decriminalize irregular migration and ensure that migrant workers and members of their families have access to legal aid, effective remedies, justice and consular services, and that the guarantees enshrined in the Convention are upheld, in full compliance with articles 16 and 17 of the Convention; (e) Provide information on the number of migrant workers arrested, detained and expelled for immigration-related infractions, the reasons for their detention and expulsion and their detention conditions, including the length of detention. 2017
2017
Regional legal instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
ACHR, American Convention on Human Rights 1978
1978
CBDP, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para) 2005
2005
Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council
Year of Visit
Observation Date
Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment 2010
2010
2015
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2011
2017
Yes 2015

INSTITUTIONAL INDICATORS