Missing Children Publication Hub
Unaccompanied Migrant Children
Published In: 2015
Beyond Detention: A Global Strategy to support governments to end the detention of asylum-seeker and refugees
Putting people in detention has become a routine – rather than exceptional – response to the irregular entry or stay of asylum-seekers and migrants in a number of countries. Some governments view detention as a means to dissuade irregular migration to or applying for asylum in their territories. While acknowledging that irregular entry or stay may present many challenges to States, detention is not the answer.
Research in fact shows that not even the most stringent detention policies deter irregular migration, and further, that there are workable alternatives to detention that can achieve governmental objectives of security, public order and the efficient processing of asylum applications. Importantly, as seeking asylum is not an unlawful act, detaining asylum-seekers for the sole reason of having entered without prior authorisation runs counter to international law. Under international law, individuals have the right to seek asylum, and if they do so, to be treated humanely and with dignity. Access to open reception arrangements and fair and efficient status determination procedures need to be part of the overall State architecture.
Detention also has many negative lasting effects on individuals. It undermines their human dignity and can cause unnecessary suffering, with serious consequences for their health and wellbeing, in particular when they are detained for long periods. Detention increases anxiety, fear and frustrations and can exacerbate past traumatic experiences. It takes place, frequently, in places and in conditions that do not meet human rights standards. Detention of children is particularly serious due to the devastating effect it may have on their physical, emotional and psychological development, even if they are not separated from their families. Children should, in principle, not be detained at all.
Detention removes asylum-seekers from the community, which is sometimes the goal, inhibiting opportunities to benefit from existing support networks (both formal and informal), and diminishing people’s capacity to be independent, self-sufficient and fulfilled members of the community after release. All these factors are further aggravated by the uncertainty about its duration and outcome.
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