Refugees held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

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Tent city holding Cuban refugees in 1990.
This refugee swam across the border and climbed a cliff in order to access the base.

Over the years a the United States has interned a varying number of Refugees held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.[1] In 1991 a coup in Haiti overthrew democratically elected President of Haiti, triggering a flood of refugees.[2][3][4]

Within six months the USA had interned over 30,000 Haitian refugees in Guantanamo, while another 30,000 fled to the Dominican Republic. Eventually the USA would admit 10,747 of the Haitians to refugee status in the United States.

Most of the refugees were housed in a tent city on the re-purposed airstrip that would later be used to house the complex used for the Guantanamo military commissions.[1] The refugees who represented discipline or security problems were held on the site that would later become Camp XRay, the initial site of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

In 2007 the United States Coast Guard reported they estimated they intercepted" 600 refugees at sea every month, and estimated that another 50 reach U.S. soil weekly."[5] The DoD budgeted $16.5 USD to build a new detention center for refugees.

Small numbers of refugees occasionally slip into the camp to this day.[6] In 2007 the camp was holding approximately 30 refugees at a time.[5]

According to a February 6, 2012, report from Agence France Presse ten political dissidents slipped into the base in November 2011.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Karen J. Greenberg (March 2009). The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537188-8. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  2. Patrick Gavigan (1997-10-01). "Migration emergencies and human rights in Haiti". Organization of American States. Archived from the original on 2012-11-01. Retrieved 2012-11-01. "The surprise coup in September 1991 opened the refugee floodgates. Within six months of the coup the US Coast Guard had intercepted more than 38,000 Haitians at sea; 10,747 were eventually allowed to pursue asylum claims in the US following screening by immigration officials on board ships or at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay. An estimated 10% of the population of Port-au-Prince and Haiti's other large cities fled into the mountains, generating an internally displaced population of perhaps 300,000. A further 30,000 crossed into the Dominican Republic." 
  3. Azadeh Dastyari. "Refugees on Guantanamo Bay. A Blue Print for Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’?". Archived from the original on 2012-11-01. "Guantanamo Bay was used as a processing centre for asylum seekers and a camp for HIV positive refugees in the 1990s. The detention of refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. naval station strongly influenced Australia’s policy of processing asylum seekers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Australia’s so called ‘Pacific Solution ’ has more in common with the U.S. policy of detaining ‘enemy combatants’ in Guantanamo Bay than initially meets the eye." 
  4. "Guantanamo Bay [GTMO "GITMO""]. Global Security. 2011-05-07. Archived from the original on 2012-11-01. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sarah Stanard (2007-10-01). "Guantanamo facility will assist refugees in distress". The Wire (JTF-GTMO). p. 4. Archived from the original on 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2012-11-01. 
  6. "10 Cuban dissidents at US Guantanamo base: blogger". Agence France Presse. 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2012-02-07. "The 10 including dissident journalists Olienny Valladares Capote and Adolfo Pablo Borraza Chaple, have been at the US base on Cuba's southeastern tip, for three months and started a hunger strike February 3, blogger Yohandry wrote."  mirror
  7. "Diez cubanos se declaran en huelga de hambre en la Base Naval de Guantánamo [Ten Cubans are reported on hunger strike at Guantanamo Naval Base]". Diario de Cuba. 2012-02-03. Retrieved 2012-02-07.