Belgium to Re-Introduce Child Detention: How You Can Help

Brussels, Belgium – According to plans by the Belgian federal government, a confined immigration facility is being built next door to the Brussels International airport. This new facility will be used to detain families with children. Leeanne Torpey, Coordinator of the Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention, stated:

These plans are a drastic step backwards for Belgium, and will hurt children the most.

The construction of this detention facility is a drastic departure from current Belgian policy. Belgium used to detain children with their families in the past, but was convicted three times by the European Court of Human Rights for detention of children in inappropriate conditions. Because of this, and public outcry, Belgium stopped this practice in 2009. Since then, Belgium has utilised return houses, which are open housing units in villages and small cities around Belgium. While there are some restrictions, families have a large degree of freedom of movement.

If the plans for a new detention facility are enacted, these freedoms and respect for human dignity would be stripped away from families fleeing war and violence. Critically, it would also mean that Belgium would detain minor children, in violation of children’s rights. Ms. Torpey stated:

The current policy is more affordable, effective and humane, and is consistently highlighted by the international human rights community as positive practice for migration governance. This ethical recognition will be a distant memory for Belgian society if the proposed plans are enacted.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2017, leading to a cost of more than double the amount to Belgian taxpayers than the current model of return houses and open housing units. Like many protectionist policies recently announced in Europe, States are increasingly implementing policies that result in widespread use of immigration detention, despite evidence that detention does not deter migration.

Due to these shifting government values and attempts to use vulnerable children to gain political advantage, the Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention is proud to support Plate-forme Mineurs en exil / Platform Kinderen op de vlucht, UNICEF Belgium, Jesuit Refugee Service Belgium, Caritas Belgium, Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, and CIRE Belgium as they launch a national campaign to block the enactment of this policy, and the construction of this family detention centre. The campaign is strongly named “You Don’t Lock Up A Child. Period.” and is supported by a network of 100 organisations, with the campaign video at 130,000 views to date. Ms. Torpey stated:

The aim of the campaign is to show that a significant portion of the voting public in Belgium don’t want to see children locked up in detention in their country. As a global network, we support their stance wholeheartedly. 


PRESS CONTACT: Leeanne Torpey, [email protected]

Coordinator, Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention

Watch and share the CAMPAIGN VIDEO which has grown to almost 150,000 views.


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