AI, ECRE and JRS Europe welcome IDC’s global campaign to end immigration detention of children

AI, ECRE and JRS Europe welcome IDC’s global campaign to end immigration detention of children 
(Brussels, 20 March 2012) Today, the International Detention Coalition launched a global campaign to end the immigration detention of children by presenting a new report “Captured Childhood” at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Amnesty International, ECRE and JRS Europe strongly support this campaign, and request governments to put an end to a widespread practice which, as the IDC report shows, has devastating effects on the physical and psychological development of children. The IDC estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of children in detention every year.
The devastating effects of immigration detention on the mental and physical health of children have been evidenced beyond dispute. Detention of children must be stopped” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. 
In a study carried out by JRS Europe in 2010, it was found that the mental health of nearly 90 percent of children interviewed had been negatively affected, while several of them also told of suffering from verbal and physical abuse while in detention. 
The prison-like environment of a detention centre puts children at a severe risk of long-lasting physical and psychological harm. A detention centre is no place for a child”, said Michael Schöpf, Director of JRS Europe. 
At the European level, the European Court of Human Rights has found that detention of children solely for immigration purposes not only violates their right to liberty but also amounts to torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. 
AI, ECRE and JRS Europe appeal to the EU member states to build on these decisions and take the necessary measures to end the immigration detention of children. The EU institutions must ensure that the current review of EU asylum legislation takes these considerations into account and includes a clear ban on the immigration detention of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. For families with children alternatives to detention should be in place.  
The EU institutions must show leadership and take the opportunity of the negotiations to amend the current EU asylum legislation to set the standard and adopt a legal framework that rules out the detention of asylum-seeking children”, said Allan Leas, ECRE’s Acting Secretary-General.  
For more information please contact:
Carmen Dupont 
European Campaign Coordinator on Migration
European Institutions Office
Amnesty International
Tel:                         +32 (0) 2 235 1380                                  
About ECRE
The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is a pan-European Alliance of 70 non-governmental organisations in 30 countries working to promote the rights of those who seek international protection in Europe.
About JRS
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organisation present in 50 countries around the world, with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate for refugees and forced migrants. JRS Europe’s 2010 study, Becoming Vulnerable in Detention, is based on interviews with 685 detained asylum seekers and irregular migrants in 21 EU countries. 
About the International Detention Coalition (IDC)
The IDC is an international non-governmental organisation with 258 members in 50 countries. Members provide legal, social, medical and other services, carry out research and reporting, and do advocacy and policy work on behalf of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers. 
Detention of children condemned by ECtHR
Tabitha was 5 years old when she was detained, alone, in Transit Centre no. 127 in Brussels for almost two months, before being removed to Democratic Republic of Congo. She had arrived with an uncle who was to take her to Canada to join her mother, a refugee. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, both on account of Tabitha’s detention and on account of her deportation to her country of origin; and a violation of  Article 8 (right to respect of private and family life) both on account of Tabitha’s detention and her deportation.  At the end of October 2002 Tabitha joined her mother in Canada following the intervention of the Belgian and Canadian Prime Ministers. 
Mrs Muskhadzhiyeva and her four children were detained in Belgium for a month pending their transfer to Poland, in application of the Dublin Regulation. The European Court of Human Rights found that the children's detention had amounted to inhuman treatment (Art. 3) because the centre was ill-suited for children and because of their vulnerability. The Court also held that the detention was not necessary in this case and that it therefore breached the children's right to liberty and security (Art 5.1). Since this judgment, Belgium has stopped the immigration detention of families, though this may resume after the construction of new facilities. 
Eivas Rahimi, from Afghanistan, was 15 years old when he was arrested in Lesbos, Greece, after crossing the border illegally. Eivas claimed he was not given information on his right to apply for asylum and that he was detained with adults, in appalling conditions. He was released after two days and travelled to Athens where he remained homeless for several days. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that his detention conditions and the lack of care after his release amounted to degrading treatment (Art 3). The Court also condemned the automatic application of detention, without consideration for the best interests of Eivas, as well as the absence of effective remedies (Art 5.1 and 5.4).