US has highest rate of child detention in world: UN

Updated November 19, 2019

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The United States has the world’s highest rate of children in detention, including more than 100,000 in immigration-related custody that violates international law, the author of a United Nations study said on Monday. — AFP/File
The United States has the world’s highest rate of children in detention, including more than 100,000 in immigration-related custody that violates international law, the author of a United Nations study said on Monday. — AFP/File

GENEVA: The United States has the world’s highest rate of children in detention, including more than 100,000 in immigration-related custody that violates international law, the author of a United Nations study said on Monday.

Worldwide more than 7 million people under age 18 are held in jails and police custody, including 330,000 in immigration detention centres, independent expert Manfred Nowak said.

Children should only be detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible, according to the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

“The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers - we still have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the (US),” Nowak told a news briefing.

“Of course separating children, as was done by the Trump administration, from their parents and even small children at the Mexican-US border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I would call it inhuman treatment for both the parents and the children.” There was no immediate reaction from US authorities. Novak said US officials had not replied to his questionnaire sent to all countries.

He said the United States had ratified major international treaties such as those guaranteeing civil and political rights and banning torture, but was the only country not to have ratified the pact on the rights of children.

“The way they were separating infants from families only in order to deter irregular migration from Central America to the United States to me constitutes inhuman treatment, and that is absolutely prohibited by the two treaties,” said Nowak, a professor of international law at University of Vienna.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2019