ADDRESSING VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: UN visits Carmichael Road Detention Center

ADDRESSING VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: UN visits Carmichael Road Detention Center
The Carmichael Road Detention Center. (FILE PHOTO)

UN delegation to visit Abaco next

Conille: We’re pleased with the level of transparency given and level of discussions had with govt to date

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Following a tour of the Carmichael Road Detention Center yesterday, United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator for Jamaica, Bahamas, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos and the Cayman Islands Garry Conille said he was pleased with the level of transparency the government afforded the delegation as the UN looks toward improving “standards and conditions for these people”.

According to Conille, the purpose of the mission and visit was to engage in broad discussions related to national development and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the UN has had excellent meetings with civil society, private sector stakeholders and government officials.

“Part of our goal, and as you know, and within the context of the SDGs (sustainable development goals), is to ensure that we are leaving no one behind and we are addressing the more vulnerable populations and the populations at risk,” he told the media outside the detention center on Carmichael Road.

Garry Conille.

“And of course, in discussions with the government, we agreed that we would come and visit here today because we know this is an important issue; we would come and visit this facility and really discuss with government ways we can work together to continue to ensure that this particularly vulnerable population is always treated with dignity, has access to due process and is of course handled in the context with commitments to human rights.”

Conille said discussions with the government and exploring ways the UN can assist, including providing technical support to “improve the circumstances under which populations that find themselves under this type of stress continued to be handled with significant amounts of dignity”.

The media was not permitted into the facility.

However, Conille said the tour of the detention center was “extremely constructive”.

He said it allowed representatives to see the efforts to ensure people are treated well and with dignity, and also helped to identify areas where the UN can possibly help to improve.

Asked which areas were identified for improvement and what were the concerns stemming from the facility, Conille said: “It’s going to be more [of] an ongoing process of discussion. This was an initial visit and an initial assessment. We’re always going to look at ways because this is a particularly vulnerable population.

“These are people [who] are already under tremendous strain and it’s always going to be about how we make sure that we have due process, that they’re treated with dignity; that they’re able to as quickly as possible rebuild their homes under the appropriate circumstances.”

Conille said the government is very committed to dialogue with the UN and keen to improve the “standards and the conditions for these people”.

He said he was pleased with the process followed, the level of transparency given and the level of discussions had to date.

The UN delegation intends to visit Abaco today.

The government began demolition of unregulated homes in the area known as The Farm, an informal community the government has said breaches a host of laws, including the building code and health and sanitation.

Conille acknowledged the government has to make “very difficult decisions”.

He said: “We want to be there and support and of course to make sure that, at all times, human rights is at the front of decisions that are being made.”

Asked whether the UN supports the expansion of demolition of unregulated structures across the island, Conille said what was important for the UN is that people all over are treated with dignity, given due process and their human rights are respected.

“That’s the fundamental of what we are here to preserve,” he noted.

He added that there are a number of things to consider: the risk to the population and the risk to the community.

He said when there is an opportunity to discuss the issues, “we are able to find solutions that are, as I said, that allow us to have the most optimal outcome for the population under these circumstances”.

The UN continues to increase its footprint in The Bahamas, having recently appointed a head of office.

Discussions will also center around assisting the government to bolster the economy, climate change, COVID recovery and preparations for future external shocks.

He said the tour of the detention center was an important part of the visit, but the purpose of the visit was much broader.