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Ending the immigration detention of children in the EU


In September 2016, all EU governments committed to ending migrant children detention by signing the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Since then, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Migrant Workers Committee have said that immigration detention can never be in the best interest of a child. The European Court of Human Rights has found that child immigration detention amounts to torture and degrading treatment. Yet, the immigration detention of children remains widespread in member States of the European Union, with devastating consequences effects on children’s health and well-being.

Child immigration detention in the EU

As part of its commitment to work towards ending the immigration detention of children, the UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe, in partnership with 15 other organizations, issued the advocacy paper “Child immigration detention in the EU” to raise awareness about the problem and call for alternative solutions. “We need to know how many children are in immigration detention,” says Birgit Van Hout, OHCHR’s Regional Representative for Europe, “and this information needs to be made publicly available.”

Governments often present child detention as a measure to increase returns, to deter future migrants or to protect children from going missing. But there is no evidence that prolonged detention leads to increased returns or deters people from coming to Europe. Alternatives to detention are more effective and cheaper, while upholding human rights and protecting children, yet they are under-resourced, underused and applied only for a small number of children and families.

The paper is available in English, French and Spanish