Panelists included: Grainne O'Hara, Legal Officer in the Protection Policy and Legal Advice Section of the Division of International Protection at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Peter Mares, journalist and Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia; Lou Orsini , Assistant Chief in the Office of Law Enforcement of the US Coast Guard; Maria de Donato, Head of the Legal Office at the Italian Council for Refugees; and Guy Goodwin-Gill, Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and Professor of International Refugee Law at the University of Oxford.
explained the procedures of the US Coast Guard
when intercepting migrants, primarily from Cuba and Haiti, at sea in the Caribbean.
explained that the Coast Guard monitors common migrant transit routes on the high seas.
Many of the questions during this session were directed to Lou Orsini, and concerned the practices of the US Coast Guard.
One audience member asked for his
response to reports of US mistreatment of Haitian migrants during repatriation to Haiti.
answered that in one instance US Embassy representatives were prevented from meeting migrants at the dock, as they normally would, because roads were blocked by a political protest.
further explained that a man who was shackled aboard a US Coast Guard
cutter had been creating a disturbance, and was restrained for safety reasons after physically resisting efforts to restore order.
stated that although he
was not present, the report he
was given indicated that while the man was unhappy to have to return to Haiti, he
did not show signs of fear of return.
Another audience member questioned whether it was true that Cuban, Haitian, and Chinese migrants were all treated differently.
explained that all Cuban migrants are read a statement explaining that they will be given a credible fear interview if they desire, Chinese migrants are given a written questionnaire asking why they have left China, and all other migrants are given a credible fear interview if they show or state a fear of return (the 'shout test').
He explained to another audience member that Creole interpreters are always available when needed.