A call on States to stop detaining migrant children

Brussels, 18 DecemberOn the occasion of International Migrants Day, the Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children, together with its member, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), calls on States to stop detaining children. The growing use of detention affects families with children and unaccompanied children throughout the world. All children should be treated as children, first and foremost, regardless of their migration status.

Around the world, undocumented migrants, including children, are denied their basic human rights and excluded from accessing essential rights and services such as health care and education. They are locked up without trial, often in appalling conditions, just because they, or their parents, do not have the right immigration documents.

In Mexico, in 2011 for instance, 6.2% of migrants in detention were under 18 years of age, which means 4,172 children. In Israel, since August 2010, unaccompanied children are being sent to a separate detention facility run by prison authorities. During the first year of its operation, 169 children were detained in this center, with reports of 19 suicide attempts during this time. In Australia, asylum seeking children and children who have been refused asylum, as well as irregular migrant children awaiting removal are all detained. The latest official statistics on Australia show that 694 children were being held in secure locked facilities. Over the past year, Canada has been holding 289 children in immigration detention centers, many under the age of 10. In 2010, 356 children were detained in France, 80% less than 10 years old. In 2012, France committed to stop detaining children within mainland France, but still frequently uses detention at the border and in its overseas territories.

International research has found that even short-term detention is harmful for a child’s mental and physical health and cognitive development. Children in detention are often denied adequate medical care and proper access to education, have limited opportunities to play, and witness their parents treated without dignity. Detention violates their human rights and increases their risk of sexual and physical abuse.

On this International Migrants Day, Jeroen Van Hove (Campaign to End Child Detention) says: “The negative medical impact of detention on children is well documented. One detained child in South Africa told us: I miss the sun, I want to see the sun, my body needs the sun." Michele LeVoy (PICUM) states “No child should be deprived of liberty solely because of their migration status. Children do not belong in detention!

All children should be treated as children, regardless of their migration status. Whether they are accompanied or not, children should not be subjected to any form of immigration detention.


Contact information

Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children
Claudia Liute, Communication Officer
Tel: + 32 492 504 447

Lilana Keith, Programme Officer
Tel: +32 2 210 17 80


About the Campaign
The Campaign is the result 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 2013.

Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of children - Sign our global petition or record your own message of support at


PICUM, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which represents a network of more than 130 organizations and 150 individual advocates working with undocumented migrants in more than 35 countries, primarily in Europe, as well as in other world regions. With ten years of evidence, experience and expertise on undocumented migrants, PICUM promotes recognition of their fundamental rights, providing an essential link between local realities and the debates at policy level.


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