Bahamian refugees

Dear Editor,

I recently had the need to research topics in refugee law. Along the way, I came across some information about The Bahamas that I believe you and your readers may find both interesting and sobering.

Refugee law is governed by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugee along with other international regional legal instruments.

The definition of a refugee can be found in the 1951 convention at article 1A(2) and applies to any person who “… owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; …” (emphasis mine)

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Data Finder (https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/) in 2018 and 2019, there were 421 and 501 refugees under the UNHCR mandate and 390 and 512 asylum seekers respectively whose country of origin was The Bahamas.

It should be noted that these refugees and asylum seekers were not migrants who left The Bahamas voluntarily but instead fled The Bahamas for at least one of the reasons set out in article 1A(2) of the 1951 convention as identified earlier in this letter.

I found these statistics sobering because in only two years, 922 people fled The Bahamas as refugees and 902 people were seeking asylum.

I have no doubt that The Bahamas’ governments, present and past, are doing and have done their best to develop The Bahamas for the benefit of all.

However, these statistics are cause for concern and a good reason for the present and future governments to do more so that Bahamians will not have to flee their country for fear of persecution having to leave their family and lives in their home country behind.


– Kean A. Smith


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