Every day, all around the world, migrant children and their families are detained simply because they lack the proper documents. These children and families often undertake perilous journeys and are met with xenophobia, violence and—increasingly—with detention despite having committed no crime and without being a threat to others.

There is now overwhelmingly clear guidance from the United Nations system that the immigration detention of children is a violation of rights to liberty and family life. Non-custodial, community-based alternatives to detention (ATD) are increasingly being implemented in a variety of country contexts. These ATD fulfill the best interests of the child and allow children to remain with their family members and/or guardians, respecting the fundamental right to liberty, while their immigration status is being resolved.

With this, the IDC in partnership with the campaign to end child detention coordinated a side event to the UN General Assembly to mark the 25th Anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. This collaborative event invited people to raise awareness of the need to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and specifically to promote its role in preventing the detention of migrant workers and members of their families. This event will also bring together representatives from States, the United Nations and inter-governmental organizations, as well as NGOs and civil society organizations.

The event was well attended, with over 50 in the audience, including several permanent missions.

The panel was opened by Ms. Carol Barton from the United Methodist Women, who shared her experience of working towards ending family detention in the US during the last year. Hear the audio.

Ms. Monami Maulik from the Women and Global Migration Working Group described the experience of meeting a young girl who had been detained in the US, reminding us that young girls are often particularly vulnerable. Hear the audio.

Ms. Maarit Kohonen, Sheriff Deputy Head of Office, New York Office Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the urgency of the situation of children being systematically detained worldwide, and the need for further ratification of the UN Migrant Workers Convention.

«More so than ever we are moving away from migration governance within the human rights framework…»

Ms. Maarit Kohonen also emphasised the UN finding that child detention is a violation of child rights and that detention is never in the best interests of the child.

Hear the audio.

Mr. Ben Lewis, Advocacy Coordinator of the International Detention Coalition, spoke about the need for a deeper understanding of the array of alternatives to detention that are available to states to use, rather than detention.

«Regardless of the conditions held, detention has been shown to have a profound negative impact on child development»

Hear the audio.

Mr. Joseph Cornelius Donnelly Permanent Delegate to the United Nations, Caritas Internationalis, spoke about the importance of civil society in recognizing where more specific leadership is required.

«Seeing children detained in Texas was one of the most heart breaking, devastating places I have seen in my life»

Hear the audio.

H.E. Mr. Carlos Raúl Morales Minister for Foreign Affairs, Permanent Mission of Guatemala, highlighted that the migration of girls, boys and adolescents is one of the major challenges of our times.

«There is a real need for shared responsibility: it is not only transit countries but those of origin and transit who need to work together to protect the liberty of girls, boys & adolescents»

Hear the audio.

The panel discussion was followed by a reception and art installation entitled, Visions from the Inside, which had its first exhibit at the Next to the Delegates’ Lounge, Palais des Nations last 7th-18th of September 2015. Visions from the Inside is a series of illustrations based on letters written by women and children in an immigration detention center. Curated by CultureStirke, these visual art interpretations were created by a diverse line-up of 15 visual artists and highlight the realities that migrants experience inside of immigration detention facilities, what led them to migrate away from their home countries, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

This event was made possible by the sponsorship of End Immigration Detention of Children, United Methodist Women, Women & Global Migration Working Group, Caritas, Destination Unknown, Terre des Hommes, Step it Up, and International Detention Coalition.