It’s time to make noise, people!

As we come to the close of the first round of negotiations in New York on the Global Compact on Migration, they have revealed that we’ve got some serious work cut out for us if we really want to use this mechanism to end child detention, once and for all.

Our partners in New York and Geneva have been involved in the first round of compact negotiations on both the Migration and Refugee Compacts. We acknowledge Brazil, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ireland, Thailand, Egypt and the Holy Sea, as well as the African Union and Central American States for rising to the call to end child detention. Their political leadership on this issue should be highly commended globally. However, we are disheartened and deeply concerned that the majority of influential states continue to push for the ability to detain children.

As a result, achieving language during the negotiations that obliges all States to end child detention continues to be called “ambitious”.

We already have a commitment from States to work towards ending child detention in the New York Declaration. We can, of course, continue to use this to push our collective advocacy efforts forward. But the negotiation of the Global Compacts presents an opportunity to translate this commitment into tangible, practical outcomes. Ending child detention needs to be in the language for the compacts, in addition to the NY Declaration, or it risks being yet another case of empty words and no action.

It depresses me that doing what is clearly right in the Global Compacts is seen as “ambitious”.

But then if there is something I know about the people who support the End Child Immigration Detention Campaign, it’s that we are a tough, persistent, ambitious bunch of people. So it’s time to get active!

We continue to hear excuses about why States need to detain children. So I’m debunking the most common ones we hear at the Campaign, because the truth is there is no need to detain a child. Seriously.



Seriously, that five year old child is a security risk? What is going on with your security systems that they are unable to handle a five year old?

National security objectives never justify the detention of children. There are alternatives to detention that can enable governments to meet their national security interests and provide for the bests interests of children as required under international law. These alternatives are inherently preferable to the detention of children in immigration detention facilities, and as a total bonus, they are considerably less expensive!

Many States will argue there is a difference between adolescents and children when it comes to security. But the CRC, which has been ratified by every country in the world except for the US, is very clear: they are children, with specific rights, until age 18.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders, calls upon States to “ensure that children in the context of migration are treated first and foremost as children and ensure that the principle of the child’s best interest takes precedence over migration management objectives or other administrative considerations.”



Ah, this old chestnut – the protectionist argument. Why is a prison-like setting so necessary to ensure that the location of children is known?

There are alternatives to detention that enable States to meet their obligations to protect the well being of children, without causing the psychological damage that immigration detention causes.

Search for child-specific examples in this big database – it’s jam-packed with useful stuff, we promise!

Some authorities use detention as a strategy to protect children from trafficking. While authorities must protect children from trafficking, confinement is not an appropriate protection measure. Practical guidelines are available that outline measures to protect children from such exploitation. Strategies include training the actors involved in the child’s care, placement in family-based care, and developing individual safety plans. The guidelines show that effective protection from trafficking requires a multi-disciplinary and interagency approach.



The CRC protects the child’s right to family and makes clear that children
should never be separated from their parents or guardians unless it is considered in the child’s best interests to do so
. The child’s right
to family extends beyond the mere biological family or any single or traditional model for a family. When a child’s parent or guardian
is at risk of immigration detention, the child’s right to liberty and family life extend to the entire family.

There are alternatives that enable families to stay together, and meet government compliance obligations. Read about some of them here.



This one feels like we have suddenly started a race to the bottom.

No matter how tough the conditions are to migrate, they will never compare to fleeing a place where people are not able to live. There is no need to harm migrant children in this process. Alternatives to detention have been shown to have high compliance rates, meaning that people remain engaged in migration processes without the need for harmful, expensive detention.

And there is a bigger question hidden within this myth: does immigration detention actually deter people? The research says that restrictive border controls are ineffective at reducing irregular migration to desired levels, and also weaken other migration management outcomes such as case resolution, departure for refused cases and integration for approved cases. Given these weaknesses, governments would be better placed prioritizing alternatives to detention.


Written by

Leeanne Torpey

Campaign Coordinator

Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention

1 reply
  1. Ingrid
    Ingrid says:

    I cannot believe, we still have children or even adults in detentions without hope, without ever knowing when they get out. How can our polititions justify this torture, how can they sleep at night, send their children to private school, etc. ???!!!

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