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November 21, 2019

Children behind bars

Editorial

 
November 21, 2019

While the US speaks frequently about human rights and their violations in other countries, a UN study shows that the US has the highest rate of children in detention, and has been guilty of violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child by separating children, even infants, from their parents notably on the US-Mexico border. These policies on immigration have brought criticism for President Donald Trump from both inside the US and the rest of the world, which appear to have made little difference to the practices followed. Currently, the US has 100,000 children in detention in immigration-related cases. The UN study states that this is a violation of international law. The UN says children should only be detained as the last resort and for the shortest possible time. The authors of the report say separating children from their parents amounts to inhuman treatment. They say US officials did not reply to questionnaires sent out to them and while Washington has ratified major international treaties on civil and political rights it is the only country in the developed world which has failed to ratify the pact on the rights of children.

In the US on average 60 out every 100,000 children in its justice system are detained in immigration related cases. The rate of detention in the US is higher than countries including Bolivia, Botswana and Sri Lanka which also figure high on the list. Across the world at least seven million people under the age of 18 are being held in jails and police custody, including 330,000 in immigration detention centres. Pakistan of course has its own problems with juvenile detentions and the juvenile justice system ordinance has never been implemented. The law laid down strict rules for holding children in jails and recommended that community-based restraint measures be used whenever possible. It also stated that children must not be held alongside hardened criminals and that special courts should hear their cases on a speedy basis.

While Pakistan needs to improve its situation, the US is obviously setting a terrible example. The new flood of immigration-based detentions has added greatly to the number of children being held in custody. The US rate of detention compares with an average of 5 per 100,000 children in Western Europe and 14-15 per 100,000 in Canada. There is quite obviously a striking difference. Trump’s immigration policies have aggravated the situation and there is growing global concern over the situation of migrant children held indefinitely in the US.

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