traducciones vertafingen i..l.;iI ,, tradu~des trad~ctions- 'L'i~, . .
Titulo de la ponencia: Un lugar para los desplazados: consideraci6n de los tipos de
servicios que las bibliotecas del Caribe deberlan brindar a los refugiados
Es possible que muchas bibliotecas en el Caribe hayan considerado diversas distracciones para
usuarios que permanencen por corto tiempo en un lugar... turistas, visitantes y el investigator
esporAdico, pero es possible que muchas no hayan considerado las penurias de los que no
estan bajo la protecci6n de un estado. A raiz de los crecientes desastres naturales en la region,
el Huracan Ivan como un devastador ejemplo, el impact del movimiento migratorio de
trabajadores que el Mercado y Economia OJnicos del Caribe (en ingles CSME) acarrearA y la
inminente promulgaci6n de leyes de refugiados en la region, tomarA tan s61o algo de tiempo
para que comencemos a ver c6mo las bibliotecas regionales se convertirAn en asilo para los
refugiados. La present ponencia esbozari (1) por que es important no negar los derechos
humans de este, hasta ahora no documentado, grupo de usuarios en el Caribe y (2) de que
formas pueden ser acogidos por las bibliotecas.
Nombre de ponente(s)
Posici6n/Titulo de ponente(s)
Institute of International Relations, UWI, St Augustine
Direcci6n para correspondencia
c/o The Library
Institute of International Relations, UWI, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago
Nimeros de teldfono/fax
1 868 662-2002 ext 2291 6 3245
Direcci6n de correo(s) electr6nico(s)
John G. Emanstraat 110, Oranjestad, Aru6a, W.I. Phone: (297) 588-2842 TFaX (297) 588-4678
E.-maid: (iII d ih, i ,a u,.'1ii ,i" I',tm il. ,'I
Une place pour les d6places: r6flexions sur les types de services qu'une
bibliotheque dans les Caralbes devraient fournir aux refugi6s.
Beaucoup de biblioth6ques dans les Caraibes ont peut-etre deja consid6re
des facilities pour des utilisateurs qui resident pour une court p6riode... des
tourists, des visiteurs et le chercheur farfelu, mais beaucoup n'ont pas
consider la situation du r6fugi6 Avec 1'augmentation des catastrophes
dans la region le cyclone Ivan come example de devastation 1'influence
des travailleurs migrateurs que le CSME apportera ainsi que l'emission
imminent de lois pour les refugi6s dans la region, ce n'est qu'une question
de temps pour que les bibliotheques deviennent un refuge pour les refugi6s.
Dans cet article nous exposerons (1) pourquoi il est si important de ne pas
refuser un des droits de l'homme a ce group d'utilisteurs un ph6nom6ne
qui jusqu'a maintenant est tres peu documented. De plus nous traiterons (2)
la mani6re don't ils peuvent etre accueillis par les biblioth6ques.
A PLACE FOR THE DISPLACED: A CONSIDERATION OF THE TYPES OF SERVICES
CARIBBEAN LIBRARIES SHOULD PROVIDE TO REFUGEES
Librarian I, Institute of International Relations
UWI, St Augustine
Tamara Brathwaite was recently appointed Librarian I at the Institute of International
Relations, UWI St Augustine. She has a Bachelors of Arts First Class Honours in
Library and Information Studies from the Department of Library and Information
Studies, UWI Mona (1998); a Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations from the
Institute of International Relations, UWI St Augustine (1999); and she gained a Masters
of Arts Degree in Electronic Communication and Web Publishing from the School of
Library, Archive and Information Studies, University of London (2003). She has worked
in libraries in Jamaica, Trinidad, England and the United States. Her previous employer
was the United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean Area where she worked for
A PLACE FOR THE DISPLACED: A CONSIDERATION OF THE TYPES OF SERVICES
CARIBBEAN LIBRARIES SHOULD PROVIDE TO REFUGEES
Librarian I, Institute of International Relations,
The University of the West Indies, St Augustine
Many libraries in the Caribbean may have considered amenities for short stay users... tourists,
visitors and the odd researcher, but many may not have considered the plight of the stateless" as
a user group in Caribbean libraries. With the prevalence of disasters in the region Hurricane
Ivan as the most recent and devastating, example the impact of migratory workers that the
CSME will bring and the impending issuance of national refugee laws in the region; it is but a
matter of time before regional libraries become a refuge for the refugee. This paper will outline
(1) current trends globally and regionally and suggest why it is important not to deny the human
rights of this so far undocumented user group in the Caribbean and (2) in what ways can
refugees be accommodated by libraries. Now, more than ever, libraries in the region need to
consider the types of services that should be provided to refugees because current trends indicate
that this user group will most likely expand and have an impact on library services in the not to
Six years ago I had an atypical encounter. A person walked into my library and I did not know
how to help him. He had no form of identification, he could not communicate in English, and in
his eyes you could read that he needed help and only at the United Nations Information Centre
(UNIC) for the Caribbean could he get it: he was a refugee. He wanted information on the UN
and specifically, he appeared to be seeking asylum in Trinidad and Tobago. Luckily, Hadi Toron,
the UNIC Director at the time spoke Arabic the mother tongue of the refugee and we were able
to translate a course of action.
This encounter brought up so many questions in my mind firstly, how did someone from the
Middle East end up in Trinidad and Tobago and more importantly was the Caribbean region
being looked upon as a refuge for those seeking asylum? Since then, I have had frequent
encounters with persons seeking refuge in Trinidad and Tobago and some who have noted that
they are being denied their human rights in some form or another, and as they were doing
research I became curious...I wanted to discover what would account for this seemingly new
' In this paper, stateless, refugee and asylum seeker are used interchangeably.
Who is a refugee?
A refugee is a person who is forced to cross international borders due to circumstances beyond
his or her control; be it environmental, political and civil. They differ from immigrants or even
deportees, in that they flee by force not by choice. No person chooses to be a refugee, but for
persons who are forced to become refugees, their rights are preserved in article 14(1) of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other
countries asylum from persecution.' According to the Refugee Convention, a refugee is defined
as someone who: has a well founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion,
nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; is outside of the
country they belong or currently reside in, and; is unable or unwilling to return homeforfear of
persecution.2 In the Latin American and Caribbean region, there are approximately 11,000
refugees and asylum seekers.3 Though refugee populations are usually characterized as women
and children, in this region, 'young male asylum seekers constitute a higher proportion of those
of concern to the UNHCR' [United Nations High Commission for Refugees].4
Since 11 September 2001, the developed world which comprises countries that have systems in
place to process and accept refugees, instituted restrictive acceptance policies against asylum
seekers. Some restrictions are accompanied by xenophobic overtures to refugees from the
developing world, especially those of Middle Eastern origin. Additionally, with the
amalgamation of the European states, individual state laws regarding asylum seekers have been
streamlined thereby adjusting previously held national criteria and restricting the numbers of
asylum seekers who would have normally been accepted. As a result, new places of resettlement
are being investigated.
Of note, 10% of the refugees of the world originate from the Latin American and Caribbean
region. That is, one in every ten persons from this region is knocking on another states' door
' UN. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 14. http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.tml.
2 UN. Convention and protocol relating to the status of refugees. [http://www.unhcr.ch/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home]
3 UNHCR. Summary of the strategic oral presentation of UNHCR's operation in the Americas, 23rd meeting of the
standing committee. 5-7 March 2002, 5.
4 UNHCR. State of the Worlds Refugee Report: human displacement in the new millennium. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2006.
looking for refuge. Also, the plight of the refugee is a media feature that not only exists in North
America, Africa, the Middle or Far East but in the Caribbean Sea from a pirogue off the coast of
Barbados, Haiti or Cuba. Stories about human trafficking, internally displaced persons and
asylum seekers are inching closer and closer to home.
Arguably, for many countries in the North Caribbean, refugees are not a new phenomenon: The
Bahamas, The Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, and Puerto Rico
either as donors or recipients can attest to that. The UN notes that the refugee movement is
primarily concentrated in these countries.5 Noting also that Caribbean States have fledging or
non-existent asylum systems, the UNHCR established an office in Washington D.C. in 2001.
This office has a Senior Legal Regional Officer with responsibility to oversee human rights
violations in this region. Additionally, this office investigates the feasibility of the Caribbean
region as a potential resettlement area.
The main legal instrument that addresses refugees is the Convention on Refugees established in
1951, and its 1967 protocol. These UN Conventions defines who is a refugee, their rights and
outlines the legal obligations of states with respect to the treatment of refugees. However, many
countries in the Caribbean only became signatories to these legal documents within the past
decade: all but four Grenada, Guyana, Barbados and St Lucia are yet to accede to the
Convention and Protocol.
Other regional realities are that with the passing of the Caribbean Single Market, immigration
laws would become more flexible to migrants. There was much debate about the type of
legislation that needed to be put in place to safeguard borders but reap the benefits of free
movement of Caribbean nationals. The question arises: Would this encourage more stateless
persons in the region? Already in the Caribbean there are several refugee communities in the
region. The Hmong from South East Asia and Vietnam have been resettled and 2000 refugees
5 United Nations Resident Coordinator. UNDP. The United Nations Resident Coordinators system for Trinidad and
Tobago: The Convention on the Status of Refugees. 28 December 2005.
now live in French Guiana6. Not too mention, 1000 refugees in Cuba and a quarter million
stateless Haitians in the Dominican Republic.7
The Caribbean region needs to be prepared as hosts for asylum seekers, for several reasons:
1. Social: The Caribbean has always been looked upon as a Zone of Peace, and with the
varied linguistic capacity of territories in the region and the UN focusing more upon this
region, the likelihood of the Caribbean becoming a host area is a real possibility.
Additionally, many territories in the region have high human development indices and
stable political profiles making it more attractive to international organizations that focus
on refugee issues, including the Red Cross, International Organisation for Migration and
agencies within the UN family.
2. Legal: With the advent of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, regional legal
systems are now being institutionalized to encourage the free movement of persons -
"through measures such as removing all obstacles to intra-regional movement of skills,
labour and travel"." Additionally, with the opportunity presented by embryonic asylum
systems, the integration of national legislation pertaining to the protection of refugees and
the establishment of the UNHCR Senior Legal Officer for the Caribbean ensuring that
legislation is passed and adhered to, the region is preparing to address the issue of asylum
3. Environmental: Climatic changes ensure that the Caribbean is no longer a shelter in the
storm. Changes in the sea level, the volatility of the hurricane season, and possible fallout
from the transshipment of hazardous waste through the region may mean that our
nationals may be refugees in another country. This engenders good neighbourly practices.
6 Bethan Jinkson, "Hmong's new lives in Caribbean" BBCNews. [http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/
mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/34980] Accessed 28 December 2005
7 UNHCR. Summary of the strategic oral presentation of UNHCR's operation in the Americas, 23rd meeting of the
standing committee. 5-7 March 2002, 1-6.
SCARICOM. The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). http://www.caricom.org/jsp/singlemarket/
singlemarketindex.jsp?menu=csme. Accessed 4 May 2006.
Where do libraries fit in?
Refugee law applies to many Caribbean states; states that are actually protectorates. Libraries of
the region are not prepared to deal with citizens of countries who have no legal basis in the
country where they seek exile. Prior to now, refugees and libraries in the Caribbean region have
not been placed under the microscope, but in circumstances outlined, the atmosphere of the
region is changing and more Caribbean libraries need to be prepared for the inevitable.
Unfortunately, refugees have less access to information and education than any other user
group.9 Libraries have a unique role in that they tend to be relatively safe, neutral places that
offer a vital service: information provision. They protect the right to privacy while ensuring that
the right to information is preserved
As Mason notes, a library may be the first point of contact for newly arrived refugees seeking
practical information.'0 In this regard, different types of libraries are affected during the
processing of a refugee. Upon entry into a country, asylum seekers are often detained and may
spend some time imprisoned. At this juncture, prison libraries are the first point of contact. After
release, the refugee may be placed under protective care, and may attempt to use public libraries
and special libraries to satisfy their information needs. Upon integration into the lifestyle of
his/her host culture, academic libraries may provide fodder for thought; and finally, with
absorption and acculturation, special and school libraries may serve as major conduits of
Caribbean library services to refugees
Firstly, library staff must remember that most asylum seekers do not have identification papers
and are now being exposed to a new culture for the first time. Asylum seekers are curious about
their new culture and are also eager to get news from home in their own language. Often the
stereotype of a refugee is a poor unskilled asylum seeker, but one should be reminded that they
once contributed to their society in some tangible way and through no fault of their own they
were forced to leave. Upon entering a library, they may appear disoriented and exhibit symptoms
9 Ibid, 22.
'o Elisa Mason. Against all odds: refugees coping in a strange land" American Libraries Vol. 30, No. 7 (August
of posttraumatic stress disorder having been a witness to the loss of property, life, and perhaps,
other heinous acts. They most probably would not have sophisticated language skills. In this
regard, there are many services that libraries could offer: services that could easily be integrated
into mainstream library services, but would be applicable to this specific user group.
In offering a refuge for the refugee, libraries can develop an array of multilingual resources. This
would have the greatest impact and garner a huge response from refugees using library services.
Firstly, libraries could incorporate in their collection development policies a clause that focuses
on the development of multilingual resources. The National Library of Canada has produced a
gateway in English and French to help libraries develop multicultural and multilingual resources:
http://www.collectionscanada.ca/ multicultural/." As the site says, 'the gateway offers targeted
resources for information service providers who work with diverse communities, as well as entry
points for new Canadians, educators, students, and researchers'. On the site is a useful toolkit,
which includes a sample inventory sheet for developing multilingual resources:
Rather than focusing on a collection of printed versions of international newspapers that are
easily available online the library could purchase classics and popular novels in foreign
languages or subscribe to international versions of popular magazines, for example, Newsweek
Asia. Library staff can contact Embassies or High Commissions in the region and asked to be
placed on their mailing list for documents in their language. Another useful service is to maintain
a contact list of agencies that offer translation services in your country in the event that these
services are required; in this way, the service is just a phone call away. Additionally, libraries
can contact local immigrant groups and offer a space for crash language courses/language
tutorials to be conducted to newly acclimatized citizens.
Libraries with experience in dealing with refugees have tailored their information services to suit
their users, for example, the Leeds Library and Information Service have information on their
12 Toolkit Multicultural resources and services. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/multicultural/r25-300-e.html.
Created 22 May 2005, Updated 15 August 2005.
website about their Library Service in ten community languages this includes translations of
the borrowers' application form. These are at: http://www.leeds.gov.uldReference%20and
%20research%20services/page.aspx"1 and offers links to books and services in other languages. 4
Bearing in mind the language limitations, libraries may also use iconic signage to assist foreign
users to locate useful areas in the library, like restrooms, lockers, the information desk, audio
visual/multimedia and reference materials.
We should bear in mind that the refugee may be coming into a society he or she is not familiar
with so the reference collection would be a popular resource of information. Language
dictionaries, guides, maps and instructional resources would be useful to create, repackage and
In the United Kingdom, the Birmingham City Council has a website specifically entitled "Library
and Information Services for Refugees and Asylum Seekers". On this site, there are links to
international newspapers online, and they have developed two useful resources an Information
Book for Newcomers to Birmingham; this resource provides guidelines for individuals and
families who are new to Birmingham. "It will help people to learn about the city and the services
they can use as they settle here or in other parts of Britain.""1 They also have a resource for
newly arrived children with specific resources for young children and teenagers.16
The Internet would be the most useful tool for finding information online, and refugees should be
allowed and encouraged to use computing resources to find useful information. Many libraries
offer free Internet access, and some go as far as to develop websites for refugees. The
Nottingham City Library Service has developed a site with information about online translation
13 Leeds City Council. Reference and research services.
14 Books and services in world languages.
ges/page.aspx?style=. Accessed 19 May 2006
'5 Birmingham City Council. http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/libraries.bcc. Last updated 15 May 2006.
16 Birmingham City Council. http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent? CONTENT ITEMID=
48080&CONTENT ITEM TYPE=0&MENU ID=10905&EXPAND=10902. Last updated 15 May 2006.
services and dictionaries.17 Multikulti is an English based website that supports citizenships and
offers information on welfare benefits, housing, immigration, health, employment and debt is
available translated into a range of languages including: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese,
Farsi, French, Gujarati, Somali, Spanish and Turkish. 1
The more developed and well-funded libraries could work in conjunction with advocacy groups
and/or the UN agencies to provide support services. The UNHCR provides satellite phones' and
access to photo-databases for refugee communities around the world. As noted before, access to
computing resources is crucial for the refugee to maintain contact with loved ones and to obtain
information about the situation in their country of origin.
The UNHCR has been working assiduously to reconnect and reunite displaced families via
technological means. The library may be able to attract funding to allow it to operate as a hub for
refugee connectivity. In February 2006, the UNHCR established libraries in Tanzania and
Zambia to deliver health information to over 770,000 refugees. According to the UNHCR
Deputy High Commissioner, Wendy Chamberlin "Refugees are among the world's most
vulnerable and excluded populations, and constantly face serious risks to their health."
Assistance for funding for this project was sourced from pharmaceutical company, Merck Sharp
& Dohme (MSD) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN).19
The library has a very direct role to play in offering assistance to refugees by being an advocate
for refugees in the community. Firstly, the provision of a temporary visitor card gives a sense of
value to someone who may have lost everything due to storm or social upheaval and have no
form of identification. Additionally, offering multilingual registration forms and simplifying
membership procedures may also assist in making a refugee feel 'safe' in a library. After being
17 Library Services. http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/sitemap/leisureandculture/libraries/library services.htm.
Accessed 19 May 2006
8 Multikulti. http://www.multikulti.org.uk/about/ Accessed 19 May 2006
'9HIlene Caux. UNCHR. New partnership to bring better health to Africa's refugees, http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-
bin/texis/vtx/news/opendoc.htm?tbl=NEWS&id=43ff36594. 24 February 2006
interrogated by immigration officers, and other government officials, another probing interview
is the last thing a refugee would want to face.
Secondly, they may be hired as volunteers, especially if they have specific language skills or
have experience working in a library. A job, no matter how small, empowers and validates and
extends a feeling of purpose. Additionally, it occupies their minds and allows them to think of
others rather than about their losses; this offers a sense of worth. It also encourages them to
interact with persons in their new society; this accelerates acclimation.
Finally and most importantly, libraries could organise exhibits, discussions and lectures to
educate the public about refugee issues. Raising awareness makes it easier for refugee groups to
be accepted and understood. Expanding collections to include titles that address refugee
experiences, preparing relevant exhibits around United Nations observances like World Refugee
Day (20 June) and Human Rights Day (10 December) are but some examples. Hosting lectures
and discussions with UN officials, academics, legal advocates, decision makers, asylum seekers,
service providers, immigrant and community groups also help to dispel myths associated with
As noted, the soil of the Caribbean is fertile ground for refugee communities to thrive and it is
but a matter of time before this user group begins knocking on the doors of Caribbean libraries, if
they are not doing so already. My advice to Libraries in the Caribbean is that to be forewarned is
to be prepared and to be prepared is to be proactive in appreciating trends... consideration given
to library services for refugees is worth a second thought.
As for the gentleman I met six years ago when I was at UNIC, he became an unofficial volunteer
at the UNIC Reference Library having had excellent IT skills and he was able to assist with
secretarial tasks. He spent six years in Trinidad and Tobago but was never granted asylum by the
Government. He works with the Living Water Community, a non-governmental denominational
organization; and the authority recognized by the UN for addressing refugees and asylum seekers
in Trinidad and Tobago. He has developed excellent English Language skills and recently
contacted me for information as he is assisting to set up a library in Central Trinidad.
Amnesty International. Trinidad and Tobago: Fear of torture or ill-treatment
http://web.amnesty.org/library/prin/ENGAMR490012004. 28 December 2005
Birmingham City Council.
TEM_TYPE=0&MENU_ID=5359. Last updated 15 May 2006.
Books and services in world languages.
20world%201anguages/page.aspx?style=. Accessed 19 May 2006
CARICOM. The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). http://www.caricom.org/jsp/
single_market/ single_market_index.jsp?menu=csme. Accessed 4 May 2006
Caux, H&line. New partnership to bring better health to Africa's refugees. UNCHR..
ECLAC. Expert group on migration, human rights and development. [LC/CAR/L.57] Port of Spain,
Trinidad and Tobago, 14-15 September 2005.
Jinkson, Bethan. "Hmong's new lives in Caribbean" BBCNews.
Accessed 28 December 2005
Leeds City Council. Reference and research services.
http://www.leeds.gov.uk/Reference%20and%20research%20services/page.aspx. Accessed 19
Library Services. Nottingham City Council. http://www.nottinghamcity.Cov.ul
sitemap/leisure_and_culture/ libraries/library_services.htm. Accessed 19 May 2006
MacDonald, Morag and David Kane. 2005. Public library services to refugees and asylum seekers in the
North East. Final report to the Northern Chief Librarians Multicultural group of the North East
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (NEMLAC). University of Central England
Mason, Elisa. Against all odds. Refugees coping in a strange land. American Libraries. Vol. 30, no.7. pp.
Multikulti. http://www.multikulti.org.uk/about/ Accessed 19 May 2006
National Library of Canada. Toolkit Multicultural resources and services.
http://www.collectionscanada.ca/multicultural/r25-300-e.html. Created 22 May 2005, Updated 15
Nurse, Keith. Migration and development in the Caribbean. The World Today.
http://www. uwi. tt/iir/news/theworldtoday/Article6.pdf. March 2006.
The Network: Tackling social exclusion in libraries, museum archives and galleries.
Services for asylum seekers and refugees. http://www.seapn.org.uk/refiugees.html. Last updated 5
United Nations. Convention and protocol relating to the status of refugees. http://www.unhcr.ch/cgi-
bin/texis/vtx/home. November 2005.
United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 14.
United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean Area. Basic facts on asylum seekers, refugees and
internally displaced persons. November 2004
United Nations Resident Coordinator. UNDP. The United Nations Resident Coordinators system for
Trinidad and Tobago: The Convention on the Status ofRefugees. 28 December 2005.
UNHCR. 2006. State of the Worlds Refugee Report: human displacement in the new millennium. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
UNHCR. Summary of the strategic oral presentation of UNHCR's operation in the Americas, 23rd
meeting of the standing committee. 5-7 March 2002, pp. 1-6.