THE ISSUE

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

Every day, all around the world, millions of children are affected by immigration detention.

Whether detained themselves or impacted by the detention of their parents or guardians, children are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Children that are unaccompanied or separated from their parents or guardians are particularly at risk in places of immigration detention, and because they are minors, often they are unable to advocate for their fundamental human rights.

WHY DO CHILDREN MIGRATE?

Often these children are seeking asylum, seeking family reunification or fleeing from violence and poverty.

The amount of migration around the world is at historic highs. Increasingly more women and children are migrating seeking safety and security.

These children have taken an enormous risk when they leave their homes, at risk of exploitation and trafficking. This risk is heightened when they are not accompanied by their parents or guardians.

WHY ARE CHILDREN BEING DETAINED?

Migrant children are not detained everywhere in the world. Some countries separate the children from their families, placing them in childcare centres, some countries don’t place families with children in detention at all, while some detain children together with convicted adult felons. In all of the cases, children are detained for the same reason adults are detained: they do not have the documentation allowing them to cross international borders.

Children are also being detained on the premise that it is not in the best interest of the child to be separated from his or her family.

WHERE ARE CHILDREN BEING DETAINED?

The lack of statistics does make it difficult to know where children are being detained – but the Campaign estimates that over 100 countries detain children for immigration reasons.

So far the Campaign has focused on Australia, Malaysia, Israel, South Africa, Greece, Mexico and the USA; all states who detain children on the basis of their immigration status.

Some states have taken positive steps toward ending the immigration detention of children. In such states, migrant children are either not detained or there is a provision for the release of migrant children from detention in law, policy or practice.

HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE BEING DETAINED?

Unfortunately, there are no exact figures to show how many children are being detained worldwide. Many governments do not keep or release data about child detention, and the figures can change quickly.

As indicated by the United Nations Comitee on the Rights of the Child and over 50 prominent human rights organisations in calling for a comprehensive UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, at present “there is a great lack of quantitative and qualitative data, research and verified information” on the number of children deprived of liberty each year.

However the Campaign estimates that hundreds of thousands of children are locked in immigration detention every day, based on:

FIND OUT MORE

The Campaign is based on the 2012 research report Captured Childhood, produced by the International Detention Coalition. Read the whole report here.