Friday, April 8, 2016

International Human Rights Clinic Conducts Fact-Finding Mission in Trinidad and Tobago

By Mary Hansel, Deputy Director, International Human Rights Clinic

This spring break, the students of the International Human Rights Clinic, supervised by myself and Professor Veronica Aragon, carried out human rights fact-finding in Trinidad and Tobago. Our students honed their attorney skill sets by preparing for and conducting in-depth interviews regarding the country’s treatment of irregular migrants. Interviewees included government officials, a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, case advocates from local migrants’ rights organizations and an attorney with the Nigerian consulate, as well as several migrants with an array of demographic backgrounds.

We will use the information gathered from these interviews to draft a report analyzing the country’s development and implementation of alternatives to detention (ATDs) for migrants. Currently, many migrants arriving in Trinidad and Tobago are held in a highly controversial detention center. Refugees and asylum-seekers, however, are generally allowed to live in the community, albeit subject to orders of governmental supervision and without work permits. Our report will evaluate this ATD scheme under applicable international human rights standards and set forth recommendations for modification and possible expansion. The hope is that Trinidad and Tobago may eventually serve as a model for the Caribbean region with respect to its migration policies and practices.

The report will be co-authored by law students from the University of the West Indies (UWI), alongside whom the Clinic students conceptualized this project and conducted their interviews. Indeed, the Clinic’s collaboration with UWI has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this project, fostering cross-cultural exchange and new friendships that promise to endure well past the end of the semester.
Students meet with the former Inter-American Commission on Human Rights President

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