Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani yesterday issued the following statement about the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families apprehended by immigration officers:
We are deeply concerned that the zero tolerance policy recently put in place along the US southern border has led to people caught entering the country irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children – including extremely young children -taken away from them as a result.
The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child. While the rights of children are generally held in high regard in the US, it is the only country in the world not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We encourage it to accede to the Convention and to fully respect the rights of all children.
The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles. The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns. It is therefore of great concern that in the US migration control appears to have been prioritised over the effective care and protection of migrant children.
Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation.
Information from various sources suggests that several hundred children have been separated from their families since last October. The practice of separating children from their parents is being applied to both asylum-seekers and other migrants in vulnerable situations, and we note that the American Civil Liberties Union has brought a class action case on behalf of hundreds of parents who have been forcibly separated from their children.
The majority of people arriving at the U.S.’s southern border have fled Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – in many cases either because of rampant insecurity and violence, or because of violations of a range of other rights, such as health, education, and housing.
The US should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offence – that of irregular entry or stay in the US.
We call on the US authorities to adopt non-custodial alternatives that allow children to remain with their families and fulfil the best interests of the child, their right to liberty and their right to family life.