Press release: Detained children in the Asia Pacific unable to celebrate international child rights day

November 20, 2014

BANGKOK, Thailand, November 20 – While many people today celebrate to mark the 25th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are many who cannot.

Many children in the Asia Pacific region continue to be locked in immigration detention, a practice that, even for very short periods of time and in relatively humane conditions, has severe, negative effects on children’s physical and mental health.

Anoop Sukumaran, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), highlighted that “many of these children will spend months behind bars, unable to access education, health, family life and other parts of a regular childhood”.

Twenty-five years ago, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted, and with it the world made a promise to children: To do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights. The CRC is the most widely and rapidly ratified international human rights treaty in history. Only three countries, Somalia, South Sudan and the United States, are not state parties to the agreement.

The CRC clearly states that detention of child on the basis of their, or their parents, immigration status is a child rights violation, recommending,

“Children should not be criminalized or subject to punitive measures because of their or their parents’ migration status. States should expeditiously and completely cease the detention of children on the basis of their immigration status.” (Committee on the Rights of the Child, Report of the 2012 Day of General Discussion on the Rights of All Children in the Context of International Migration, para. 78)

Worldwide, states are increasingly recognizing the negative impact that even short periods of detention can have on migrants – especially on vulnerable groups such as children and families.

‘First and foremost, children are children and they should be treated as such,” said Alistair Boulton, the Assistant Regional Representative for Protection at the UNHCR’s Regional Office in Bangkok. ‘To this end, UNHCR has launched a global strategy to move beyond detention – by reducing recourse to it and providing alternatives where this is not possible.”

Acknowledging this important day for child rights, the Global Campaign to End Child Detention launched an international day of action on November 20 with a regional event in Bangkok, Thailand. Jointly organized by the campaign, APRRN, the UN refugee agency and the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, the event aimed to raise awareness of an issue that for many is invisible, highlighting that the detention of children is a growing problem in the Asia Pacific and that governments should cease this practice immediately.

The Global Campaign to End Child Detention was launched in 2012 with the support of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It tracks changes to law, policy and practice that impact on immigration detention of children. Campaign coordinator Leeanne Torpey said, “The good news is that it is possible to prevent children from being locked in immigration detention, and some countries have led the way in showing that it is possible to determine a child’s status in a child-sensitive environment.”

The CRC urges that to the greatest extent possible, and always using the least restrictive means necessary, states should adopt alternatives to detention that fulfil the best interests of children. On this important day for child rights around the world we can only hope that on the next significant CRC anniversary, all children, including those who are no longer in immigration detention, will have something to celebrate.
APRRN: Julia Mayerhofer,, +66 8911225761
UNHCR: Vivian Tan,, +66 818270280

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