UN Experts Urge European Union to Protect Child Rights

Protect Child Rights
Protect Child Rights

The primary UN body monitoring child rights on Wednesday urged European countries to end the detention of children in the context of migration.

“EU law should not allow for child immigration detention, even as a last resort, and the reform of the Common European Asylum System is a timely opportunity to ban this practice,” said Renate Winter, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

EU law currently stipulates that migrant and asylum-seeking children may be placed in detention, as a last resort, if it is in their best interests.

However, Winter stressed that “the claim that detention is necessary to protect children from going missing, being exploited or ‘absconding’ is misguided. Detaining children, whether unaccompanied or on the basis of their or of their parents’ immigration status, is never in the best interests of the child and constitutes a violation of the rights of the child.”

“There can be no exceptions to this principle,” Winter said. “All EU Member States have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and there should be no provisions in EU law that allow for practices that violate EU Member States’ international obligations.”

The Committee on the Rights of the Child further emphasized that irregular entry or stay should not be equated to the commission of crimes. According to the Committee, although the possibility of detaining children as a last resort exists in criminal law, it does not apply to immigration proceedings as that would never be in the best interests of the child.

When it is in the best interests of the child to remain with his/her family, the Committee highlighted that the prohibition of detention extends to the child’s parents as well. In such cases, non-custodial solutions must be found for the entire family.

Photo courtesy: UN Human Rights

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Rakesh Raman