An activist holds a sign at a protest against the US Administration’s policy of separating children from their families at the Mexican border. ©Sarah Mirk

At least 2,300 children at the US-Mexico border have been separated from their families over a 5-week period, and children continue to be detained with their families at these same processing centres. In response to this situation, Destination Unknown has endorsed Recommendations for the Reunification of Separated Children with their Families, developed by the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, urging all responsible parties to:

1. Facilitate rapid family reunification;
2. Provide mental health and psychosocial support to children and their families;
3. Ensure that administrative and legal procedures meet their best interests; and
4. Prevent further family separation by ending the use of detention.

The potential harm and risk to children if nothing is done is real.

Both family separation and detention of children whether alone or as a family have proven toxic for children’s overall development and long-term well-being. The long-lasting damage to a child’s well-being starts almost immediately, and increases the longer he or she is separated or detained.

Family separation and shelters expose children to increased risks of neglect, violence, exploitation and abuse. Children – from infants to adolescents – cannot fully develop without strong emotional bonds with their primary caregivers. Sudden, forced separation from their primary caregivers can inflict harm comparable to that which children experience during humanitarian crises, such as living in conflict zones.

Family detention has a highly detrimental impact on the long-term well-being of children and their families. In addition to direct negative impacts on their well-being, detention also diminishes caregivers’ capacity to shield children from long-lasting psychological and cognitive harm.

Wherever you are, speak up and support the #FamiliesBelongTogether recommendations, calling for the rapid reunification of separated children with their families and an end to detention.

Organisations can endorse here.

Individuals can endorse here, and this will be delivered to the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

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