UN agency reports fewer children detained for immigration purposes

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UN agency reports fewer children detained for immigration purposesUNITED NATIONS, Aug 19 (APP): The UN Refugee Agency has reported a 14 percent decrease in the total number of children detained for immigration-related purposes across 12 countries last year, according to a report released on Thursday.

The report entitled “Beyond Detention” said countries including Canada, Malta and Hungary have adopted national action plans aiming to end detention of children that are seeking asylum, and the decrease was observed last year in comparison to data in 2014.

“There is strong evidence that detention has a profound and negative impact on child health and development, regardless of the conditions in which children are held, and even when detained for short periods of time,” the agency, UNHCR, said.

As such, it has been calling on countries to end detention of children for immigration-related purposes or to ensure that alternatives to detention are available in law and implemented in practice.

On the strategys first goal ending child detention, encouraging progress was reported.

This includes adoption of protective laws and policies to limit or rule out child detention, prioritized processing of the asylum claims of children, enhanced access to age appropriate information in a child-friendly format and increased attention to the process of appointing qualified guardians.

According to UNHCR, these measures contributed to an overall decrease of 14 per cent in the total number of children detained across the 12 countries in 2015 as compared to 2014, when all the countries detained children for immigration-related purposes.

By the end of 2015, two countries had also stopped detaining asylum-seeking children.

However, ensuring referral to alternatives to detention, the second goal of the global strategy, has proved more of a challenge.

Officials in most of the focus countries still rarely or never consider alternatives in each individual case before detaining, said the agency in the news release.

Asylum-seekers and refugees still [face] the risk of indefinite detention in one-third of the focus countries due to the absence in law of a maximum time limit in detention, it added, noting moderate progress on the final goal improving detention conditions.