Saint Kitts and Nevis (the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis) is a small archipelago nation made up of two islands located in the western Caribbean (West Indies). With a population of approximately 52,000, the country is the smallest in the Western Hemisphere. On 31 March 2020, following the confirmation of its first two COVID-19 cases, the country imposed a full lockdown that included a 24-hour curfew and the temporary closure of its borders. Many travel restrictions, including entry and quarantine requirements, which have been in place since April 2021, remained in place as of May 2021, including suspension of flights from Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. As of 17 May 2021, the country had recorded 45 cases of COVID-19 and no related deaths.
The Global Detention Project has been unable to establish the extent to which migration-related detention measures are used in Saint Kitts and Nevis as part of immigration enforcement procedures. There is also no information publicly available concerning COVID-19 related measures taken to safeguard people in immigration or police custody, or people in international protection situations.
According to UNHCR, from 2018 to 2020, there were five refugees in the country and no asylum seekers, stateless persons, or Venezuelans displaced abroad. The country has ratified only some of the core human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In consequence, Saint Kitts and Nevis received numerous recommendations concerning human rights treaties during its review for the second cycle of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2015, including: “ratify core international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocols, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol (Germany) (para. 92.3)” and “guarantee the protection of refugees in conformity with the obligations of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Djibouti) (para. 92.74).”
In a submission to the UPR in 2015, UNHCR highlighted that despite being a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the “country has not passed implementing legislation or administrative regulations on asylum or refugee matters, nor established a national asylum procedure” and has not acceded to the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. UNHCR made a series of recommendations in this regard, including, inter alia: “consider the passage of domestic refugee legislation; develop a national refugee status determination procedure”; and “facilitate full and open access to asylum procedures for persons who have expressed a fear of returning to their country of origin and to ensure non-refoulement of all persons in need of international protection.”
As regards the country’s prison system, in May 2020, the country’s Commissioner of Corrections announced the establishment of an early release system for prisoners. The Commissioner said authorities “have formulated a list of inmates who were nearing the end of their sentences and so these are persons who I had recommended to be released from Her Majesty’s Prison but there is a process that we have to follow. It is not automatic that they would be released.” At the time, the prison population in St Kitts and Nevis stood at 184, of which 162 were held in St. Kitts, while 22 were held in Nevis. In November 2020, prison authorities stated that sanitary protocols put in place since March 2020 were to remain in place until the end of the pandemic and include the obligation to wear a mask for staff and hand sanitisation as well as body temperature checks for any new inmates.