No detention centre mapping data


Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Detention

Trinidad and Tobago, one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, has framed efforts to increase detention and deportation as a matter of national security. It opened a dedicated immigration detention centre in 2009. The country’s immigration laws provide criminal penalties for various violations, including six-month prison sentences for re-entry after expulsion.

Quick Facts


Immigration detainees (2014): 131
Immigration detention capacity (2011): 150
International migrants (2015): 49,900
New asylum applications (2016): 156

Profile Updated: March 2017

Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Detention Profile

 

 

INTRODUCTION

With large reserves of oil and gas, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean and enjoys an above-average per capita income for the region.[1] This status has helped make the country an important transit and destination country as well as a major tourist destination. Its economic success has been used as an excuse to crackdown on what officials describe as “alarming” numbers of “illegal immigrants,” who allegedly number in the hundreds of thousands and threaten the country’s national security.[2]

Citing the restrictive policies pushed by U.S. President Donald Trump, the country’s National Security Minister has said that Trinidad and Tobago needs to ramp up deportations and “to operate in the same manner as the United States.”[3] People can be subject to criminal penalties for various immigration violations, including six-month prison sentences for re-entry after expulsion.

The country opened a dedicated administrative immigration detention facility in 2009, which is called the “Immigration Detention Centre" (or IDC) as well as the “Aripo Detention Centre.” The National Security Minister explained the decision to open the facility as a deterrence measure: "Strengthening the nation's capacity to detain illegal immigrants and other aliens subjected to deportation is a key component of the comprehensive strategy to deter illegal immigration into Trinidad and Tobago."[4] 

Among those who are frequently subject to immigration controls are Cubans who, since a 2016 U.S. order blocking their access to the country, have been forced to find new migratory routes.[5] Other nationalities of unauthorized immigrants frequently cited by officials are Guyanese, Venezuelans, Ghanaians, and Jamaicans

 

LAWS, POLICIES, AND PRACTICES

Trinidad and Tobago adopted the Immigration Act in 1976, which was last amended in 2005. This law provides grounds for immigration-related detention. Foreign nationals can be detained under the provisions of section 14 of the Immigration Act for a hearing before a Special Inquiry Officer to determine whether they are permitted to enter Trinidad and Tobago or should be detained prior to removal. A detention order can be issued by the Minister, the Chief Immigration Officer, or a Special Inquiry Officer. During the hearing, the person can be assisted by an attorney and is provided free interpretation services.[6] There is no judicial review of this decision.[7] Detainees held at the Immigration Detention Centre are either awaiting final determination of their status or execution of a deportation order.[8]

Non-governmental sources report that asylum seekers are also placed in administrative detention.[9] While the country is a party to 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, it has not adopted implementing legislation nor established a national refugee status determination (RSD) procedure.[10] As a result, UNHCR and its local NGO partner (Living Water Community[11]) have the responsibility for identifying and providing assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. However, transfer of RSD from UNHCR to the government began in June 2014 after the adoption of the National Policy to Address Refugee and Asylum Matters.[12] The first phase included the creation of an ad hoc Refugee Unit in 2015. In 2014, 161 new asylum applications were registered by UNHCR and the Living Water Community.[13]

Government sources report that Trinidad and Tobago has a population of more than 100,000 undocumented migrants,[14] which would represent more than 10 percent of its entire population of some 1.4 million. However, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, there were only 49,900 international migrants in the country as of 2015.[15]

Trinidad’s treatment of detainees from Africa has been criticized because the country has at times kept them in immigration detention for very long periods of time, which in some cases has extended beyond three years.[16] These extended lengths of detention are lawful as the Immigration Act does not provide a maximum length of detention. However, the U.S. Department of State reported that the average length of detention for the Immigration Detention Centre was one week to two months in 2014.[17]

The Immigration Act criminalizes unauthorized enter or residence for any person who has been already removed or otherwise lawfully sent out of Trinidad and Tobago. This irregular re-entry is punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of 1,500 USD.[18]

 

DETENTION INFRASTRUCTURE

The Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) was opened in 2009 on the Eastern Main Road in Aripo, Arima. The IDC, also know as the Aripo Detention Centre, is managed by the Immigration Division under the authority of the Ministry of National Security. Although it was initially intended for short-term detention only it is now used as a long-term immigration facility to detain unauthorized migrants prior to their removal.[19]

In 2013, the IDC had a maximum capacity of 150, with separate facilities for men and women.[20] In 2014, 131 foreign nationals were held at the facility, with Jamaicans reportedly making up the largest portion, followed by Guyanese and Africans.[21]

Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions at the Aripo facility. Squalid conditions have spurred protests and attempted suicides, according to the Emancipation Support Committee.[22] During Trinidad and Tobago’s UN Universal Periodic Review in 2011, countries urged the government to “Take prompt, appropriate, efficient measures towards the improvement of the living conditions in prisons and detention centres, including the inmates’ access to food, medical care and social services.”[23] Recommendations were also made on the need to strengthen the protection safeguards, in particular the mechanisms that allow the detection of migrants with special needs for international protection.[24]

In February 2016, an NGO submission prior to the 25th UPR session highlighted that the Immigration Act remained insufficient with regard to the protection of migrant rights and that “lengthy administrative detention, unfavorable detention conditions, detention of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, lack of access to by NGOs suggest that reform of the immigration system is imperative.” They also urged independent monitoring of the detention centre.[25]

 

 

[1] Central Intelligence Agency, “Trinidad and Tobago Profile”, The World Factbook, 2015. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/td.html

[2] Jamaica Observer, "110,000 illegal immigrants in Trinidad," 15 October 2014, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/110-000-illegal-immigrants-in-Trinidad; Gail Alexander, "Clampdown on illegals," Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 6 February 2016,  http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2016-02-05/clampdown-illegals.

[3] Carolyn Kissoon, "T&T must deport illegal migrants," Daily Express, 15 November 2016, http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20161115/news/8216tt-must-deport-illegal-migrants8217.

[4] Daily Express Trinidad, “Detention Center Opens in Aripo,” 12 November 2009.

[5] Mario Penton, " Hundreds of Cuban migrants seeking U.S. entry stranded across the Americas,” 19 January 2019, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article127315479.html

[6] Ministry of National Security, Immigration Act, Section 24 (2), “Nature of hearing”, Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. http://www.immigration.gov.tt/Portals/0/Documents/Immigration%20Act.pdf

[7] Ministry of National Security, Immigration Act, Section 30, “Jurisdiction of Court”, Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. http://www.immigration.gov.tt/Portals/0/Documents/Immigration%20Act.pdf

[8] Ministry of National Security, Immigration Act, Section 16, “Detention pending inquiry, examination, appeal or deportation”, Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. http://www.immigration.gov.tt/Portals/0/Documents/Immigration%20Act.pdf

[9] Living Water Community, Submission to the Working Group on the UPR 25th session, Paragraphs 30, February 2016. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/033/25/PDF/G1603325.pdf?OpenElement

[10] UNHCR, Universal Periodic Review, “Submission by the UNHCR for the OHCHR’ Compilation Report on Trinidad and Tobago”, March 2011. http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4d886a9f2.pdf

[11] United States Department of State, 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Trinidad and Tobago, 25 June 2015. http://www.refworld.org/docid/559bd53128.html

[12] UNHCR, Submission for the Universal Periodic Review of Trinidad and Tobago prior to the 25th session, p. 2. Published in March 2016. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/044/41/PDF/G1604441.pdf?OpenElement

[13] Statistical Yearbook 2014, Table 10, Asylum applications and refugee status determination by country/territory of asylum and level in the procedure, 2014. http://www.unhcr.org/54cf9bc29.html

[14] The Daily Observer, “Trinidad Migration: Government issues warning to illegal migrants”, December 2014. http://antiguaobserver.com/trinidad-migration-government-issues-warning-to-illegal-migrants/

[15] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/ Rev.2015). See www.unmigration.org.

[16] Jamaica Observer, “Jamaica has highest number of illegal immigrants in Trinidad”, Trinidad's Minister of National Security statement, October 2014. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Jamaica-has-highest-number-of-illegal-immigrants-in-Trinidad-says-Trinidad-s-Minister-of-National-Security

[17] United States Department of State, 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Trinidad and Tobago, 25 June 2015, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/559bd53128.html

[18] Ministry of National Security, Immigration Act, Section 29 (8), “Execution of deportation”, Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. http://www.immigration.gov.tt/Portals/0/Documents/Immigration%20Act.pdf

[19]Daily Express, “Detention centre opens in Aripo: Illegal immigrants to be kept until sent back home”, November 2009. http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Detention_centre_opens_in_Aripo-115318229.html

[20] Office of the National Ombudsman Trinidad and Tobago, 36th Annual Report of the Activities in 2013. Published in July 2014. file:///C:/Users/MPARC/Downloads/OTT%2036th%20Annual%20Report%202013.pdf

[21] The Daily Observer, “Trinidad Migration: Government issues warning to illegal migrants”, December 2014. http://antiguaobserver.com/trinidad-migration-government-issues-warning-to-illegal-migrants/

[22] “Emancipation Committee calls for investigation into Detention Centre”, September 2015. http://www.looptt.com/content/emancipation-committee-calls-investigation-detention-centre

[23] Human Right Council, Universal Periodic Review, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review - Trinidad and Tobago”, 19th Session, 14 December 2011. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/173/73/PDF/G1117373.pdf?OpenElement

[24] Human Right Council, Universal Periodic Review, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review - Trinidad and Tobago”, 19th Session, 14 December 2011. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/173/73/PDF/G1117373.pdf?OpenElement

[25] Living Water Community, Submission to the Working Group on the UPR 25th session, Paragraphs 30-31, February 2016. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/033/25/PDF/G1603325.pdf?OpenElement

Centres List

No detention centres data available

Statistics Expand all



131

Total number of immigration detainees by year

2014

  • Total number of immigration detainees by year
NumberObservation Date
1312014


150

Estimated total immigration detention capacity

2011

  • Estimated total immigration detention capacity
NumberObservation Date
1502011


1

Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2016

  • Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
12016


3,700

Criminal prison population

2016

  • Criminal prison population
NumberObservation Date
3,7002016
4,8462013


3.1

Percentage of foreign prisoners

2013

  • Percentage of foreign prisoners
PercentageObservation Date
3.12013


272

Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)

2016

  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
NumberObservation Date
2722016
3622013



1,360,000

Population

2015

  • Population
NumberObservation Date
1,360,0002015


49,900

International migrants

2015

  • International migrants
NumberObservation Date
49,9002015


3.7

International migrants as a percentage of the population

2015

  • International migrants as a percentage of the population
PercentageObservation Date
3.72015


785

Refugees

2018

  • Refugees
NumberObservation Date
7852018
2882017
892016
1212015
832014


0.08

Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

2016

  • Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
NumberObservation Date
0.082016
0.062014


156

Total number of new asylum applications

2016

  • Total number of new asylum applications
NumberObservation Date
1562016
1612014


75

Refugee recognition rate

2014

  • Refugee recognition rate
NumberObservation Date
752014


0

Stateless persons

2016

  • Stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
02016
02015

Domestic Law Expand all

Legal tradition
NameObservation Date
Common law

Constitutional guarantees? Show sources
Yes/NoConstitution and ArticlesYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
YesThe Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Act 4 of 1976, as amended by Act 89, 2000 Article 4 Article 5 Article 1119761976
Core pieces of national legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Immigration Act and Amendments, Chapter 18:0119692000

Immigration-status-related grounds Show sources
NameObservation Date
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality2016
Detention to effect removal2016
Detention for unauthorised entry or stay2016

Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations? Show sources
FinesIncarcerationObservation Date
YesYes2016
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration Show sources
Grounds for IncarcerationMaximum Number of Days of IncarcerationObservation Date
Unauthorized entry02016
Unauthorized re-entry02016

Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law. Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
No Limit2016
Longest recorded instance of immigration detention. Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
10952016
Average length of detention Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
602014

Provision of basic procedural standards Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Right to legal counselYes2016
Access to free interpretation servicesYes2016

Types of non-custodial measures Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Supervised release and/or reportinginfrequently2014
Provision of a guarantorinfrequently2014

Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice? Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Asylum seekersNot mentionedYes2016

Latest Update Show sources
Update StatusObservation Date
Trinidad and Tobago reportedly operates one dedicated immigration detention centre, the Aripo Detention Centre in Arima, which has a total capacity of 150 places. In recent years, the country has cracked down on Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers who have fled violence and economic hardship in their country. The Covid-19 pandemic reached the Carribean in March 2020, and it is expected that the outbreak will increase further in the coming weeks. As of 8 May, the country had recorded a total of 116 cases and 8 deaths. As a response to Covid-19, the government implemented confinement measures for all the “non-essential labour force” from 29 March until 15 April. This was later extended to 30 April. The government had announced, on 22 March, the closure of its borders to all international flights for an indefinite period and visas for non-citizens are currently suspended until further notice. The government also introduced a series of financial and economic measures to provide income, food and rental fee support to nationals and permanent residents who have been financially affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Most Venezuelan migrants and refugees as well as other non-nationals, will not benefit from these measures, but are entitled to public primary health care. According to the International Detention Coalition, the government is keeping migrants and asylum seekers in immigration detention centres with a history of poor healthcare and sanitation, disregarding the risks for detainees in contracting Covid-19. Amnesty International has also begun a petition urging the governments of the USA, Mexico, Canada, Curacao and Trinidad and Tobago to release migrants and asylum seekers from immigration detention so they can be protected from Covid-19 infection. UNHCR implemented several measures aimed at ensuring protection for persons of concern during this pandemic. Three hotlines have been established to provide assistance and information. In the first month, the hotline received 1,111 queries from persons of concern requesting information on cash (51%) or food (16%) assistance. A cash-based intervention was put in place and 215 applications have already been approved. Also, through an implementing partner in the country, Living Water Community, UNHCR is providing food to around 200 families. Other measures such as a public information campaign, ensuring education access and providing medical and psychosocial health services have been set up by UNHCR and their implementing partners. On 3 April, the general prosecutor announced the release of 388 prisoners out of the country’s 3,959 total prison population. Only those sentenced for “minor” infractions were released and a medical examination prior to release is conducted on the prisoners. Following the suspension of visits to prisoners on 31 March, alternatives such as electronic communications and video calls were organised in the Golden Grove women’s prison. Each prisoner will get 10 minutes every two weeks to speak with their family. While the country has taken measures to protect prisoners, including release and suspension of visits, the GDP has been unable to find reports indicating that authorities have adopted any measures to assist migrants in detention.2020

International Law Expand all

International treaties Show sources
NameRatification Year
CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2015
CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime2007
CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children2007
CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees2000
PCRSR, Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees2000
CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child1991
CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women1990
ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights1978
ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1978
ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination1973
CRSSP, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons1966
VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations1965
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
  12/19
International treaty reservations Show sources
NameReservation YearObservation Date
ICCPR Article 1019781978
ICCPR Article 1419781978
ICCPR Article 2619781978
Individual complaints procedure Show sources
NameAcceptance Year
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19661980
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted Show sources
NumberObservation Date
1/6
1/6

Regional legal instruments Show sources
NameYear of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
CBDP, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para)1996

Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review Show sources
Recomendation IssuedYear IssuedObservation Date
No20162017
Yes2011

Institutions Expand all

Federal or centralized governing system
Federal or centralized governing systemObservation Date
Centralized system2015
Centralized or decentralized immigration authority
Centralized or decentralized immigration authorityObservation Date
Centralized immigration authority2015

Custodial authority Show sources
AgencyMinistryMinistry TypologyObservation Date
Trinidad and Tobago Prisons ServicesTrinidad and Tobago Prisons ServicesPrison2015
Immigration Division Ministry of National SecurityInternal or Public Security2015
Detention Facility Management Show sources
Entity NameEntity TypeObservation Date
Ministry of National SecurityGovernmental2015
Trinidad and Tobago Prisons ServicesGovernmental2009
Formally designated detention estate? Show sources
Formally designated immigration detention estate?Types of officially designated detention centresObservation Date
YesAny facility designated by relevant authority2015
Types of detention facilities used in practice Show sources
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)Immigration field office (Administrative)Transit centre (Administrative)Reception centre (Administrative)Offshore detention centre (Administrative)Hospital (Administrative)Border guard (Administrative)Police station (Criminal)National penitentiary (Criminal)Local prison (Criminal)Juvenile detention centre (Criminal)Informal camp (Ad hoc)Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)Surge facility (Ad hoc)Observation Date
2015
YesYesYesYes2014

Authorized monitoring institutions Show sources
InstitutionInstitution TypeObservation Date
Office of the Ombudsman of Trinidad and TobagoNational Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI)2016
Does NHRI carry out visits? Show sources
Does NHRI carry out visits in practice?Observation Date
Yes2013
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints? Show sources
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints?Observation Date
Yes2014

Socio Economic Data Expand all

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD) Show sources
Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)Observation Date
21,3232014
Remittances to the country Show sources
Remittances to the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
1312014
Unemployment Rate Show sources
Unemployment RateObservation Date
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP) Show sources
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)UNDP four-tiered rankingObservation Date
64High2015

Additional Resources


Immigration detention in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago, one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, has worked to limit unauthorized migration to help boost its tourism appeal. It opened a dedicated immigration detention centre in 2009. The country’s immigration laws also provide criminal penalties for various violations, including six-month prison sentences for re-entry after expulsion.

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