WASHINGTON D.C., September 15, 2014 (UNHCR) – Government officials from 11 Caribbean states and territories, along with representatives from civil society and international and regional organizations, are gathering this week in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, for a Caribbean regional conference on the protection of refugees and stateless persons organized by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
In the keynote address, marking the opening of the conference yesterday, Marta Juarez, UNHCR Director of the Americas Bureau, said, “Given the complexities of modern forms of maritime movements, and acknowledging the specificities that characterize this region, we believe that the Caribbean should be part and parcel of global discussions around coordinated protection responses.”
This week’s conference aims to promote regional cooperation and dialogue, and to identify good practices in managing mixed migration flows in the Caribbean and to examine the protection of those traveling within mixed flows. Such flows occur primarily at sea and often consist of asylum-seekers, refugees, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors, and economic migrants who use the same travel methods and routes, whether originating from within or outside the region. The conference will also address refugee status determination, identifying durable solutions for refugees and issues related to statelessness.
In his introductory remarks, Premier Honorable Alden McLaughlin, Government of the Cayman Islands, articulated: “The Cayman Islands prides itself on being a progressive nation and a good citizen of the global community in which we play an important role. But before we became the Cayman that we are today, our people plied the oceans to make a living. So we understand full well the dangers that exist on the open ocean. Indeed, many of our seamen have perished at sea. It is natural, therefore, for us to join the leading nations of the world in the recognition of our responsibility to promote and protect human rights and, indeed, to protect life. The issue of refugees thus bears significant local relevance and presents us with an opportunity to embrace the spirit and values of the human rights treaties that have been extended to our Islands. And this we have done.”
Last February, UNHCR chief António Guterres launched the “Cartagena +30 process”, inviting all governments of Latin America and the Caribbean to engage in a broad consultative process to identify the main contemporary protection challenges in the region and agree on a common road map to respond to the plight of refugees, asylum-seekers, other forcibly displaced, and stateless persons.
The two-day event, which began Wednesday, 10 September, is the fourth and last regional meeting of the “Cartagena+30 process”, which culminates in a December ministerial meeting in Brazil commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees. This is the first time that the Caribbean region has joined Latin American countries in a Cartagena commemoration process. The expected outcome of the December meeting is the launch of a decade of regional cooperation and a shared plan of action in relation to refugees and other vulnerable groups. It is an opportunity to build a shared regional protection framework that attempts to provide answers to current protection challenges in a spirit of solidarity.
“This meeting represents a watershed in the Caribbean’s quest for practical, effective and creative solutions to challenges on refugee and statelessness issues. The conclusions and recommendations emanating from this meeting should offer the Caribbean an opportunity to find solutions within the region and garner for support and assistance from outside of the region,” said Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR Regional Representative in Washington at the start of the conference.