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UN Committee asks States to stop detaining children


IDC logoThe Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), following their Day of General Discussion (DGD) on the rights of all children in the context of international migration,  released its report with strong recommendations for States to stop the immigration detention of children.

The Committee emphasised that regardless of the situation, “detention of children on the sole basis of their migration status or that of their parents, is a violation of children’s rights, is never in their best interests and is not justifiable“.  Concerning the right to family life, it was also emphasised that the family unity was “not a justification for detaining children and alternative measures should be found for the whole family. Respect for family unity should be maintained…”

The Committee made the following recommendations in relation to immigration detention of children:

Best interest of the Child

– Conduct individual assessments and evaluations of the best interests of the child at all stages of and decisions on any migration process affecting children…In particular, primary consideration should be given to the best interests of the child in any proceeding resulting in the child’s or their parents’ detention, return or deportation (Para 72).

– Ensure the availability of information on migrating procedures, risks and rights, health and mental health support, legal representation and guardianship, interviews and other processes in a child-friendly and culturally-sensitive manner (Para 73).

Right to Liberty & Alternatives to Detention

– States should expeditiously and completely cease the detention of children on the basis of their immigration status. Children should not be criminalized or subject to punitive measures because of their or their parents’ migration status (Para 78).

– To the greatest extent possible, and always using the least restrictive means necessary, States should adopt alternatives to detention that fulfil the best interests of the child, along with their rights to liberty and family life… States have the legal obligation to comply with international standards on detention conditions… States should ensure support measures and appropriate alternative care is available for children released from detention centres (Para 79).

– If detention is necessary, States are urged to impose such measure for the shortest time and in conditions that meet, at least, the minimum standards of detention as set out in human rights law. This includes ensuring a child-friendly environment; separation from adults who are not the child’s parent or guardian (even if the child is above the age of 16 years); child protection safeguards; and independent monitoring (Para 80).

Right to Family Life

– States should refrain from detaining and/or deporting parents if their children are nationals of the destination country. Instead, their regularisation should be considered (Para 84).

Right to Health

– Ensure and implement adequate and accessible measures for addressing trauma experienced by children during migration, asylum-seeking or trafficking. Special care should be taken to make mental health services available to all children, including in the context of conducting the child’s best interests assessment, evaluation and determination.


Alternatives to Detention

The Committee also made special reference to the  Child-Sensitive Community Assessment & Placement (CCAP) model developed by the International Detention Coalition. The Model advocates for a  community based measure as an alternative to detention including the appointment of a guardian for unaccompanied and separated minors, assignment of a case manager, community placement and a periodic review of that placement and basis to remain in the country.

In lieu of the recent Malaysian Insider article on the cost of running prisons in Sabah for foreigners (despite a lack of clarity on the number of minors held in these detention centres), consideration of alternatives to detention in Malaysia is thus not only in accordance with the principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, but is also long overdue from a humanitarian perspective and now even a better use of the nations resources. Children just do not belong in detention.



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