On 20 November, the UN Independent Expert on Children Deprived of Liberty, Manfred Nowak, released the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. This study is the result of years of work by Nowak, with assistance provided by numerous external advisers and experts, including GDP staff members, evaluating all forms of deprivation of liberty of children—including children in migration-related situations.
Although the UN-mandated Independent Expert issued questionnaires to all countries asking for details about, and data on, children in all forms of detention, only 92 countries responded. Of these, only 42 countries answered questions concerning the migration-related detention of children. Based on these answers as well as information provided by numerous other experts and independent sources, the Global Study concludes that no fewer than “80 countries around the world deprive children of their liberty for migration purposes.”
Acknowledging the clear trend in authoritative law and opinion regarding the necessity of prohibiting child immigration detention, the study makes various important recommendations:
- To end immigration detention of children and families.
- States should collect and make publicly available, disaggregated, anonymised data, to clarify the numbers of, and circumstances faced by, child detainees.
- States should design and implement child-sensitive screening processes to ensure prompt identification of children who come into contact with migration authorities.
- Unaccompanied and separated children should be referred to the regular child protection system for appropriate attention, protection, and care.
- Assessments of a child’s best interests should be undertaken independent of migration authorities.
- States should develop credible and effective protection programmes that provide appropriate protection and care to migrant children.
- Children with family members should be allowed to remain with their families in non-custodial, community-based contexts.
- Under no circumstances should children be returned or transferred to a country where there are grounds to believe the child would face risks.