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A call on States to stop detaining migrant children

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Picture by Pro-Zak

Brussels, 18 December – On the occasion of International Migrants Day the International Detention Coalition calls on States to stop detaining children. The growing use of detention affects families with children and unaccompanied children throughout the world. All children should be treated as children, first and foremost, regardless of their migration status.

Around the world, undocumented migrants, including children, are excluded from accessing essential rights and services such as health care and education. They are locked up without trial, often in appalling conditions, just because they, or their parents, do not have the right immigration documents.

In Mexico for instance, 6.2% of migrants in detention in 2011 were under 18 years of age, which means 4,172 children. In Israel, since August 2010, unaccompanied minors are being sent to a separate detention facility run by the prison authorities. During the first year of its operation, 169 children were detained in this center, with reports of up to 19 suicide attempts during this time. In Australia, asylum seeking children and children who have been refused asylum, as well as irregular migrant children awaiting removal are all detained. The latest official statistics on Australia show that 694 children are held in secure locked facilities. Over the past year, Canada held 289 children in immigration detention centers, many of whom were under the age of 10.

International research has found that even short-term detention is harmful for a child’s mental and physical health and cognitive development. Children in detention are often denied adequate medical care and proper access to education, have limited opportunities to play, and witness their parents treated without dignity. Detention violates their human rights and increases their risk of sexual and physical abuse.

On this International Migrants Day, Jeroen Van Hove (Campaign coordinator at the International Detention Coalition) says: “The negative medical impact of detention on children is well documented. One detained  child in South Africa told us: I miss the sun, I want to see the sun, my body needs the sun.”

All children should be treated as children, regardless of their migration status and should not be subjected to any form of immigration detention. States should instead use community-based alternatives that have proven to be humane, effective and cheaper than detention.

The Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children was founded in March this year by the International Detention Coalition to address this worldwide problem. The campaign promotes the use of the Child sensitive community assessment and placement model (see www.idcoalition.org/ccap).

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