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US New Family Detention Policy Still Fails Thousands

Asylum seeking children from Mexico and Central America line up for their breakfast at a migrant shelter. (File Photo)Asylum seeking children from Mexico and Central America line up for their breakfast at a migrant shelter. (File Photo)

The United States government decision to end its border policy of forcibly separating migrant children from their parents, does not help thousands of youngsters already in detention, who should be released and reunited with their families, a group of UN rights experts said on Friday.

The group of 11 independent Special Rapporteurs, and other experts, insist that the detention of the migrant children—”most” of whom are asylum-seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras—inside the US, “severely hampers their development and in some cases, may amount to torture,” UN News reported.

Their statement issued to reporters in Geneva, follows US President Donald Trump’s decision to sign an executive order ending the practice of forcible separation on Wednesday, two months after the so-called “zero-tolerance” policy was introduced.

The order calls for detaining family members together, who are caught attempting to enter the US, mostly at the southern border with Mexico.

The experts, appointed by the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said the order simply “does not address the situation of those children who have already been pulled away from their parents.”

“We call on the government of the US to release these children from immigrant detention and to reunite them with their families based on the best interests of the child, and the rights of the child to liberty and family unity,” the statement added.

  Grave Concerns

The group of experts had already expressed their grave concerns to the US government over the impact of the zero-tolerance policy in early April. The policy made all adults and children trying to cross the border liable to criminal prosecution as a punitive deterrent, the experts noted.

“The separations have been conducted without notice, information or the opportunity to challenge them. The parents and children have been unable to communicate with each other,” said the statement, adding that “the parents have had no information about the whereabouts of their children, which is a cause of great distress.”

“Moreover, we are deeply concerned at the long-term impact and trauma, including irreparable harm that these forcible separations will have on children.”

Echoing that point of view, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday that it was opposed to separating children from their families for the purposes of migration control.

Spokesperson Christophe Boulierac added that the agency would also be opposed to unconfirmed media reports that children could stay with their families if all of them had to remain in detention.

An alternative would be to take a non-custodial community approach, Boulierac added.

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