Child Detainees Unable to Celebrate International Child Rights Day

logo block JPEG

PRESS RELEASE: November 20, 2014, Global Campaign to End Child Detention

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – Advocates will gather in front of the United Nations for a candle light vigil in support of children’s rights. While many celebrate today to mark the 25th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are hundreds of thousands who cannot.

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.

Arianna from El Salvador describes her experience of being detained at age 16,

“the jail cell they put me in was freezing, very dirty, and didn’t have any windows. The cell was the size of a small bathroom in a house. It looked like it was built to fit only one person because it had only one place to sleep. There were six people put into one tiny cell.  It had steel walls.”

25 years ago, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted, and with it the world made a promise to children: to do everything in our power to protect & promote their rights. The CRC is the most widely and rapidly ratified international human rights treaty in history. Only three countries, Somalia, South Sudan and the United States, have not ratified the agreement.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that children should not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained. The UN Committee which oversees the Convention has recommended that states should “expeditiously and completely cease the detention of children on the basis of their immigration status”.


UN Committee on CRC Vice Chair, Ms Aseil Al-Shehail, urges urgent action in light of the increasing numbers of migration being experienced worldwide, “Today, more than ever, large numbers of children are on the move with their families escaping violence and civil strife in hopes of finding sanctuary – only to end up being placed into detention facilities as a political expedient.


“It is often said that the measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members. Children are the weakest and most vulnerable members of the international community and it is more necessary than ever to ensure that all children in places of migration are protected under the full application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – without discrimination of any kind,” said Ms. Al-Shehail.


This was affirmed recently by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ,in an Advisory Opinion on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration and by the  Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).


“Detention is no place for children, where feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, fear and desperation are apparent,” said Sally Pillay, Director and social worker for First Friends, a detention visitation program in New York and New Jersey. “Children, regardless of nationality and immigration status, are our hope for a better world. We need to join the rest of humanity in helping children live better lives instead of treating them as threats to our country.”


In the United States, family detention is rapidly expanding – at the beginning of 2014 there were only 96 beds for families, by 2015 there will be 6,300 beds. A pending Executive Action by the US Administration would not include the tens of thousands of families who have recently arrived in the US—leaving them in legal limbo and many in family detention.


The Global Campaign to End Child Detention launched in 2012 with the support of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights tracks changes to law, policy and practice that impact on immigration detention of children. Campaign Coordinator, Leeanne Torpey says, “it is possible to prevent children from being locked in immigration detention, and some countries have led the way in showing that it is possible to determine a child’s immigration status in a child-sensitive and non-punitive environment.”


Groups and individuals gathering in front of the UN are calling on states to uphold the rights of the child and stop the practice of child and family detention. They call on the US to ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and to protect the lives of women, children and families fleeing violence in Central America and Mexico.


On this important day for child rights around the world we can only hope that the next significant CRC anniversary all children, including those who are no longer in immigration detention, will have something to celebrate.


CONTACT: media@endchilddetention, 1-212-682-3633x 3104






Organizations co-sponsoring the event:


American Friends Services Committee

Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Detention Watch Network

DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center

First Friends of New Jersey & New York

Families for Freedom

Haiti Solidarity Network NE. (HSNNE)

Immigrant Defense Project

International Detention Coalition

Justice Strategies

Loretto at the UN

New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC

Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

Reformed Church of Highland Park

Terre Des Hommes – Destination Unknown

United Methodist Women

We Belong Together Campaign

Women’s Refugee Commission