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Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Coalition calls for end to detention of refugee children
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¬†A coalition of church organisations and NGOs has issued a policy document today, Universal Children's Day, the International Coalition on Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants (IDC) launched a position paper calling for the end of the use of immigration detention of children. The document concludes that this practice contravenes international human rights law, in particular the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The position paper highlights the psychological harm - such as depression, disruptive conduct, nightmares, and even impaired cognitive development - caused to children held in immigration detention centres. It urges states to follow the example of Australia and Sweden which use alternatives to detention such as child-friendly supervised release. The alternative models proposed in the paper would enable states to fulfil their obligations under human rights law while also addressing their concerns. The IDC obtained information from its members in 25 different countries on the detention of children in their respective countries in preparing the paper. Only three countries ≠ Spain, Ireland and Hungary ≠ report that their governments do not hold children in closed immigration centres although age determination for older children presented a challenge. The paper highlights bad practices in the UK, US, and Malaysia. In the UK, children can be detained indefinitely. In the US, the government has been forced to investigate disturbing conditions of confinement of immigrant children. In Malaysia, children are detained with adults under harsh conditions including the use of corporal punishment (caning and slapping) as a penalty for immigration offences. Few countries provide statistics on the number of migrant and refugee children detained and the length of their confinement. Where provided, IDC members reported that these official statistics often do not reflect the reality. If children are not counted, then they just do not figure in policy discussions. "Politicians have abdicated responsibility on this issue. The report details how most of the few successes in preventing the immigration detention of children have been made by the judiciary, or by concerned members of civil society. Pressure by NGOs has forced the Australian and Maltese governments to act, limiting the detention of these groups; likewise, the courts in Europe and South Africa have issued judgements against the detention of children. Yet, their governments have yet to respect fully these judicial rulings", added Ms Gallagher. The IDC is a coalition of over 100 non-governmental groups and individuals working in over 50 countries the world providing legal, social and other services, carrying out research and reporting, and doing advocacy and policy work on behalf of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers who have come together to share information and to promote greater respect for the human rights of detainees. The IDC advocates limiting the use of, seeking alternatives to, and using the least restrictive forms of, immigration detention. The steering committee of the IDC brings together a number of leading international NGOs which share concerns about the treatment of immigration detainees, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Jesuit Refugee Service, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, World Council of Churches, and a number of national NGOs. List of countries surveyed: Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Austria, Ireland, Poland, Netherlands, Malta, UK, South Africa, Egypt, Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA and Mexico.
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