Asia Pacific: NGOs urge Asia Pacific governments to end the immigration detention of children

26 November 2011

Ending migration detention prevents psychological harm, uses resources more efficiently, and is more humane.

Kuala Lumpur, 26 November 2011 – States in Asia Pacific are increasingly using to detention as a first resort to manage irregular migration, even where there are no valid security concerns, according to a statement of 50 NGOs from 18 countries in a meeting held in Malaysia on Thursday and Friday.

International research, the statement continued, has found that detention is damaging, costly and does not deter irregular migration. Alternatives to detention exist and are proven to be cheaper, and more humane and effective.

Throughout Asia many individuals are detained for prolonged periods, in conditions below international standards, and denied the right to asylum procedures and to review their detention.

“The detention environment has consistently been found to negatively impact on physical and mental health and increase the likelihood of ill-treatment, human rights abuses and refoulement. Particular concerns exist for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable groups, such as children”, said Grant Mitchell, director of the International Detention Coalition (IDC), group co-founded by JRS in 2005.

To address this, some states have begun exploring and implementing alternatives to migration detention, which have been found to be cheaper than detention and effective in ensuring compliance in the community. For instance, Thailand and Japan have both released a large number of refugee children from detention over the past year.

In line with international standards, there should be a presumption against the use of migration detention, which must be a method of last resort, reviewable, for the shortest possible period, independently monitored and with adequate safeguards and conditions.

The meeting was held two weeks before a high level ministerial meeting in Geneva to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention. The International Detention Coalition and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and their members call upon states to use this occasion to pledge to end the migration detention of children by considering alternatives to migration detention.

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