“Detention for administrative purposes can never ever be in the best interest of a child” states François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the article co-published with Unicef as part of the Children on the Move research watch project: the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies as set out by Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
According to the Special Rapporteur, detention has negative consequences on physical and psychological well-being of children and their development; it may be very distressing and it might exacerbate trauma experienced by the children before arriving in the country.
“Children deprived of their liberty often have difficulties understanding why they are being “punished” despite having committed no crime”.
Children should never be detained either they are unaccompanied or they are travelling with their family.
Unaccompanied children should never be detained based solely on their migratory or residence status, or lack thereof: they should be appointed a legal guardian to protect their best interests, including preventing their detention.
Similarly, children travelling with their family should never be detained for the reason of their parents: their detention would amount to a violation of Article 2 of CRC, according to which children shall not be punished for the acts of their parents.
François Crépeau concludes that “Children should be treated as children first and non-custodial alternatives to detention should be offered to all such unaccompanied children and to families with children”.
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