Trinidad and Tobago

Detains migrants or asylum seekers?

Yes

Has laws regulating migration-related detention?

Yes

Refugees

3,424

2022

Asylum Applications

20,369

2022

International Migrants

78,849

2020

Population

1,500,000

2023

Overview

(March 2017) 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.

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

09 February 2022 – Trinidad and Tobago

On 5 February 2022, the Trinidad and Tobago coast guard opened fire on a boat carrying some 40 people fleeing Venezuela, wounding a woman and killing her nine-month-old baby. The country’s coast guard stated its personnel had opened fire in “self-defence” to prevent being rammed by the boat. Human rights activists as well as the […]

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Trindad and Tobago Coastguard Searching a Vessel During a Patrol in 2011 (Andrea De Silva, Reuters,

13 August 2020 – Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago adopted a series of measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including health-related measures, employment benefits, food handouts, and temporary extension of residence permits and certificates. However, most asylum seekers and irregular migrants, mainly from Venezuela, did not benefit from these measures, aside from receiving primary health care (see 9 May Trinidad […]

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Migrants and Asylum Seekers Waiting to be Registered During the Two Week Registration Period in T&T in 2019, (Looptt,

09 May 2020 – Trinidad and Tobago

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 […]

Read More…

National Security Minister Stuart Young speaks to Venezuelan nationals detained at the Aripo Immigration Detention Centre during his visit to the facility on 2 April 2019, (
Last 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

    DETENTION STATISTICS

    Total Migration Detainees: Flow + Stock (year)
    131
    2014

    DETAINEE DATA

    Total Number of Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
    0
    2017

    DETENTION CAPACITY

    Total Immigration Detention Capacity
    150
    2011
    Number of Dedicated Immigration Detention Centres
    1
    2016

    ALTERNATIVES TO DETENTION

    ADDITIONAL ENFORCEMENT DATA

    PRISON DATA

    Criminal Prison Population (Year)
    3,700
    2016
    4,846
    2013
    Percentage of Foreign Prisoners (Year)
    3.1
    2013
    Prison Population Rate (per 100,000 of National Population)
    272
    2016
    362
    2013

    POPULATION DATA

    Population (Year)
    1,500,000
    2023
    2,000,000
    2020
    1,360,000
    2015
    International Migrants (Year)
    78,849
    2020
    49,900
    2015
    International Migrants as Percentage of Population (Year)
    5.63
    2020
    3.7
    2015
    Refugees (Year)
    3,424
    2022
    3,571
    2021
    3,179
    2020
    2,308
    2019
    785
    2018
    288
    2017
    89
    2016
    121
    2015
    83
    2014
    Ratio of Refugees Per 1000 Inhabitants (Year)
    0.08
    2016
    0.06
    2014
    Asylum Applications (Year)
    20,369
    2022
    9,189
    2019
    156
    2016
    161
    2014
    Refugee Recognition Rate (Year)
    75
    2014
    Stateless Persons (Year)
    0
    2022
    0
    2016
    0
    2015

    SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS

    Gross Domestic Product per Capita (in USD)
    21,323
    2014
    Remittances to the Country
    131
    2014
    Unemployment Rate
    2014
    Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
    64 (High)
    2015

    MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

    Does the Country Detain People for Migration, Asylum, or Citizenship Reasons?
    Yes
    2022
    Does the Country Have Specific Laws that Provide for Migration-Related Detention?
    Yes
    2016

    GOVERNANCE SYSTEM

    Legal Tradition(s)
    Common law
    Federal or Centralised Governing System
    Centralized system
    2015
    Centralised or Decentralised Immigration Authority
    Centralized immigration authority
    2015

    LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

    Do Migration Detainees Have Constitutional Guarantees?
    Yes (The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Act 4 of 1976, as amended by Act 89, 2000 Article 4 Article 5 Article 11) 1976 1976
    1976 2000
    Detention-Related Legislation
    Immigration Act and Amendments, Chapter 18:01 (1969) 2000
    1969

    GROUNDS FOR MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

    Immigration-Status-Related Grounds
    Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality
    2016
    Detention to effect removal
    2016
    Detention for unauthorised entry or stay
    2016
    Criminal Penalties for Immigration-Related Violations
    Yes (Yes)
    2016
    Grounds for Criminal Immigration-Related Incarceration / Maximum Length of Incarceration
    Unauthorized entry
    2016
    Unauthorized re-entry
    2016
    Children & Other Vulnerable Groups
    Asylum seekers (Not mentioned) Yes
    2016

    LENGTH OF MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

    Maximum Length of Administrative Immigration Detention
    No Limit
    2016
    Average Length of Immigration Detention
    Number of Days: 60
    2014
    Recorded Length of Immigration Detention
    Number of Days: 1095
    2016

    MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION INSTITUTIONS

    Custodial Authorities
    Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Services (Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Services) Prison
    2015
    Immigration Division (Ministry of National Security) Internal or Public Security
    2015
    Detention Facility Management
    Ministry of National Security (Governmental)
    2015
    Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Services (Governmental)
    2009
    Formally Designated Detention Estate?
    Yes (Any facility designated by relevant authority)
    2015
    Types of Detention Facilities Used in Practice
    2015
    2014

    PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS

    Procedural Standards
    Right to legal counsel (Yes)
    2016
    Access to free interpretation services (Yes)
    2016
    Types of Non-Custodial Measures (ATDs) Provided in Law
    Supervised release and/or reporting (Unknown) infrequently
    2014
    Provision of a guarantor (Unknown) infrequently
    2014

    DETENTION MONITORS

    Types of Authorised Detention Monitoring Institutions
    Office of the Ombudsman of Trinidad and Tobago (National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI))
    2016

    > National human rights monitoring bodies

    > National Preventive Mechanisms (Optional Protocol to UN Convetion against Torture)

    > Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

    > Governmental monitoring bodies

    > International detention monitoring

    TRANSPARENCY

    READMISSION/RETURN/EXTRADITION AGREEMENTS

    COVID-19

    HEALTH CARE

    COVID-19 DATA

    INTERNATIONAL TREATIES

    International Treaties Ratified
    Ratification Year
    Observation Date
    CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    2015
    2015
    CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
    2007
    2007
    CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
    2007
    2007
    CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
    2000
    2000
    PCRSR, Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
    2000
    2000
    CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child
    1991
    1991
    CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    1990
    1990
    ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    1978
    1978
    ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    1978
    1978
    ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
    1973
    1973
    CRSSP, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
    1966
    1966
    VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
    1965
    1965
    Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
    Ratio: 12/19
    Treaty Reservations
    Reservation Year
    Observation Date
    ICCPR Article 10 1978
    1978
    1978
    ICCPR Article 14 1978
    1978
    1978
    ICCPR Article 26 1978
    1978
    1978
    Individual Complaints Procedures
    Acceptance Year
    ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 1980
    1980
    Ratio of Complaints Procedures Accepted
    Observation Date
    1/6
    1/6

    NON-TREATY-BASED INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

    Relevant Recommendations from the UN Universal Periodic Review
    Observation Date
    No 2016
    2017
    Yes 2011

    REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

    Regional Legal Instruments
    Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
    Observation Date
    CBDP, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para) 1996
    1996

    DETENTION COSTS

    OUTSOURCING

    FOREIGN SOURCES OF FUNDING FOR DETENTION OPERATIONS