Working Paper
Irregular Migration and Asylum Seekers in the Caribbean

Irregular migration is increasing in the Caribbean while the opportunities for applying for asylum hardly exist. The policy regarding most Caribbean irregular migrants is based on the view of the potential destinations, namely that the migrants are economic rather than political refugees. Whatever the specific cause of a migrant’s departure, the movement is rooted in a complex amalgam of political, socioeconomic and (increasingly) environmental, factors. Thus irregular movements are part of the wider Caribbean migration process. The irregular movements differ from other forms of migration in that they represent the informal sector of migration, providing an alternative to those sectors of national populations that for political or economic reasons fall outside the immigration categories for entry to the United States. Locations in the Caribbean largely provide the intended transit stops to the United States, but with the implementation of policies to interdict migrants at sea, many of these intermediary locations become final destinations and, ultimately, marginalized communities of the migrants themselves and successive generations. These centres are the nodal points of an established transnational network that sustains the ongoing process of irregular migration. The economic and emotional cost and risks faced by the migrants are high, and the economic and political cost and challenges faced by host governments are also high. Irregular migration and the issue of asylum poignantly reflect various aspects of poverty and the vast economic disparities that exist within the region. Further, irregular migration and the question of asylum greatly affect diplomatic relations between Caribbean countries of migration source and destination. Better and more thoughtful policies are needed to address the continuing issues relating to irregular migration.