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Statement by Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW) on Ending Immigration Detention of Children

3 July 2014

Of the estimated 232 million international migrants worldwide, 35 million are children and youth, many of them migrant workers or members of their families.  Children migrate for a variety of reasons, including deteriorating security and economic conditions, abuse and neglect, lack of educational and work opportunities, as well seeking out parents who are working abroad.  The recent crisis at the Mexican-US border illustrates this point.  Thousands of children fleeing Central America have overwhelmed US border authorities prompting the Government to declare a crisis and to undertake emergency measures to process the immigration/refugee claims of these children.  Until these cases are processed, it is reported that children are being detained in sometimes sub-standard conditions.

Every day, all around the world, millions of children are affected by immigration detention.  Whether detained themselves or impacted by the detention of their guardians, children are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations.  The immigration detention of children has been shown to have long-lasting mental and physical health implications for children, even when used for very short periods of time.

In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration.  States should not detain children based on their migration status or that of their parents or guardians. In the unfortunate situation where detention is used in respect of children of migrant workers for immigration matters, Article 17 of the UN Convention on Migrant Workers makes it clear that the children must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person and for their cultural identity.

Accordingly, the Chairperson of the CMW calls upon States to cease the immigration detention of children, and to adopt alternatives to detention that fulfil the best interests of the child and allow children to remain with their family members and/or guardians in non-custodial, community-based contexts while their immigration status is being resolved.  The Chairperson of the CMW also calls upon States to respect their obligations under those core United Nations human rights treaties that they have ratified, and to ratify those treaties to which they are not yet party.   

The core United Nations human rights treaties are as follows: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.