Today is International Children’s Day.
It’s a day when we celebrate the rights of all children to have access to a happy, healthy childhood.
Yet we know that today millions of children are being harmed by immigration detention.
The International Detention Coalition (IDC) believes that refugee, asylum-seeker, and migrant children should never be detained for reasons relating to their immigration status. We support the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in calling for States to “expeditiously and completely” end the practice of child immigration detention. Instead, children and families should be supported in the community while they await a final decision on their migration situation, and we are driving and supporting a number of existing initiatives to end the immigration detention of children.
The IDC is proud to chair the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) to End Child Immigration Detention, which was formed in 2014 and brings together prominent United Nations, intergovernmental, and civil society organisations who collectively represent stakeholders in every country of the world.
In its first year of formation, a number of prominent IAWG members, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW), all publicly supported the global standard that children should not be detained for reasons related to their immigration status.
In 2015, the IAWG was happy to welcome three regional human rights experts to the group, including the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Human Rights Commissioner for the Council of Europe (COE), and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The IAWG has helped support initiatives promoting the #EndChildDetention Campaign, including this side-event on “Protecting Liberty of Migrant Children & Families” held on the margins of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The IDC is also proud to sit on the NGO Core Group of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty (GSCDL).
Recently we published the revised edition of There Are Alternatives which had, for the first time, a specific section on alternatives for children, including a timeline that highlighted states who have already taken steps towards practical change.
The Global Campaign to End Child Detention continues to gain momentum, now with over 100 global organisations supporting the Campaign and with more than 6000 individuals calling for an end to child detention.
IDC’s newest publication explores how to apply the Child-Sensitive Community Assessment and Placement (CCAP) Model, from our 2011 publication Captured Childhood (also available in Spanish – Infancia Cautiva) to local country contexts. The report Community reception and placement: A model for unaccompanied children in Mexico (in Spanish only) provides insight into existing national frameworks to develop alternatives to detention that support children to live in the community with freedom of movement while their migration situation is resolved.
The model is currently being used as a basis to develop and implement a small community pilot in Mexico City together with the Mexican immigration authorities for referral of unaccompanied migrant children to children’s shelters with specialized care models, in particular Casa Alianza and Aldeas Infantiles.
The Global Campaign held a focus month on the Central American Northern Triangle Countries this year – including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, exploring countries of origin and their role in advocating to end child detention. The video above was received from El Salvadorian Government officials, calling for freedom for all children.
Campaigners in Korea have launched their own campaign to end child detention, building awareness of the best interests of the child towards legislative change. Add your signature to their petition to show your support.
Campaigners in Australia have continued their #FreeTheChildren action, with an awareness raising campaign in the lead up to the Australian elections next year.
Momentum has been building towards the development of pilots in the Asia Pacific region to provide evidence that children and their families can live in the community while awaiting an outcome on their migration status. This 19-20 November, the IDC and Asia-Pacific Refugee Rights Network co-organised a Regional Experts Roundtable on Alternatives to Detention for Children. The Roundtable, taking place in Bangkok, Thailand, is hosted by Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Thailand’s Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The Roundtable is aimed at supporting the development of pilots for children and their families in the Asia Pacific Region, so that they can live in the community, and importantly, avoid harmful detention.
This year the Council of Europe Assembly’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons launched a parliamentary campaign to end child detention, in partnership with the global campaign, appointing Ms. Doris Fiala as general rapporteur for the Campaign to End Child Detention.
The IDC in Africa have begun a ‘mapping’ exercise with the support of our members, to collect information about the immigration detention situation including relevant laws, policies and practices. So far we have quality information from six countries with a focus on the immigration detention of children. This work is ongoing and will be used to inform our work to highlight the issue of child detention at the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Africa Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC).
In 2015 we begun this work by attending the 25th Session of the ACERWC and holding a side-event at the recent 57th Session of the ACHPR, during which we highlighted the need for African States to end the practice of child immigration detention and gained a commitment from the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa to work together to address issues of child immigration detention throughout the continent.
Middle East and North Africa
Middle East and North Africa IDC members and supporters of the Campaign are taking a future-focused approach to raising awareness.
We welcome the work of organisations in Libya who are educating the next generation about the rights of child migrants and those in detention, through innovative tools such as comic book stories, which draw on religious values of freedom and equality.
Also welcome has been legislative change in Israel, which has successfully prevented the detention of child migrants in residential centers. IDC members continue to work on the development of other child-friendly policies.