THE IMPACT

WHAT IMPACT DOES DETENTION HAVE ON A CHILD?

Regardless of the conditions in which children are held, a number of studies have shown that detention has a profound and negative impact on child health and development.

Even very short periods of detention can undermine child psychological and physical well-being and compromise their cognitive development.

Children held in detention are at risk of suffering depression and anxiety, and frequently exhibit symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as insomnia, nightmares and bedwetting. Feelings of hopelessness and frustration can manifest as acts of violence against themselves or others.

Reports on the effects of immigration detention on children have found higher rates of suicide, suicide attempts and self-harm, mental disorder and developmental problems, including severe attachment disorder. They also found “marked differences between adults and children in the distress associated with various incidents.”

WHAT IMPACT DOES DETENTION HAVE ON THIER FAMILIES?

Sometimes children are detained due to their parents’ migration status or because states believe that it is in the best interests of the child to keep children with their parents in immigration detention. This is in conflict with a child’s right to liberty, and may also contravene a child’s individual right to seek asylum.

However, the best interests of the child are also not served when parents or guardians are detained and their children transferred to an alternative care system. The separation of children from their parents or guardians for such reasons is in conflict with the rights of the child and erodes the functioning of families. As a result, children often lose the support and protection of their parents, or are forced to take on roles beyond their level of maturity.

For this reason, the CRC has clarified that migrant families with children should be accommodated as a family in non-custodial, community-based contexts while their immigration status is being resolved.

STORIES FROM CHILDREN IN DETENTION