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Governments must end the detention of children
December 10, 2012

Governments must end the detention of children
Jesuit Refugee Service believes ending migration detention prevents psychological harm, uses resources more efficiently and is more humane.

(Melbourne and Brussels) December 10, 2012 – On Human Rights Day today, the International Detention Coalition (IDC), of which Jesuit Refugee Service is a member, and the Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children call on governments to take steps to prevent or end detention of immigrant children and start employing humane community-based alternatives. Detention, even for short periods of time, has a negative psychological and emotional impact on migrant children, who typically do not pose a threat to the receiving community.

States should make a pledge to end the immigration detention of children, using the examples set by countries such as Belgium, who have alternatives to detention in place for migrant children. Moreover, countries like Japan, Holland and the United Kingdom have recently taken steps to release children or prevent their detention altogether. The IDC and the Campaign will be organizing an event at the Human Rights Council on the issue, along with supportive states. The IDC invites governments to learn more about the existing alternatives to detention, as described in the Child Sensitive Community Assessment and Placement Model it has developed.

The Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children was launched this year at the Nineteenth Session of the Human Rights Council and started conducting a series of "focus months," concentrating on the issue of child immigration detention in countries like Australia, Greece, South Africa, and just last month, Mexico, where 4,172 children were detained in 2011; that number is reported to exceed 5,000 in 2012. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" (Art. 9), and children, due to their vulnerability, certainly make no exception.

Nonetheless, there are countries which are moving away from the practice of detaining children and the IDC and the Campaign to End Child Detention want to encourage them to share their best practices in statements at the Human Rights Council next year, as well as at the High Level Dialogue on Migration, which is planned by the UN General Assembly.

On the last Day of General Discussion, organized by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the topic was migrant children and it was widely agreed that children do not belong in detention. Moreover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, was quoted saying "it's difficult to see children – three years old, five years old – behind bars" after his recent visit to Greece, which ended on 3 December.

"We need to build on these discussions and current momentum by helping states to explore alternatives to detention for all children, as they are, first and foremost children, regardless of their migration status. The IDC, and its members in 50 countries, is keen to assist governments in designing and implementing alternatives to detention that are in the best interest of children," said IDC Director Grant Mitchell.

Contact information

In Australia:
Grant Mitchell, IDC Director
Tel: +61 403194665

In Belgium: 
Jeroen van Hove
Campaign Coordinator
Tel: + 32 492 504 447

About IDC

The International Detention Coalition (IDC) is a coalition of over 300 NGOs — including Jesuit Refugee Service — and individuals working in more than 50 countries around the world.

The IDC advocates for greater respect for the human rights of detainees; this includes limiting the use of, seeking alternatives to, and using the least restrictive forms of immigration detention. The IDC constructively engages with governments around the word on alternatives to immigration detention, particularly for children and young people, who are most affected by detention policies. 

For more information visit:

About the Campaign

The Campaign is a consequence of a consensus by human and refugee rights groups and is currently endorsed by 80 organisations worldwide. Members of the general public can sign a global petition, calling for an end to immigration detention of children, which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in a year's time.

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Mr Christian Fuchs