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Ireland must demand an End to Detention of Children in Europe – Gavan

23 July, 2018 - by Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called on the Irish Government to insist that EU Member States end the shameful practice of Immigration Detention of Children.

Speaking after visiting two SOS Children’s Villages in Athens as part of the Council of Europe’s Migration Committee, Senator Gavan said:

“It may come as a shock to many people that Greece, Hungary, France, Croatia, and Belgium all practice Immigration Detention of Children.

“Today, along with colleagues from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I saw a working alternative model to the detention of children through the excellent work of the SOS Children’s Villages Organisation. I spoke to children who told me first hand of their experience of incarceration in police cells, public hospitals, and camps prior to being taken into the care of SOS.

“Right now, there are thousands of children in these states effectively being incarcerated, either in prison cells or in closed reception centres. We are taking about unaccompanied migrant children who have travelled in appalling circumstances from countries torn apart by war, extreme poverty, and conflict.  Having endured all of this, they are now being denied their right to be child at all.

“The decision by EU member states to imprison these children is in direct contravention of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child which states ‘No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily’ (Art. 37).

“A worrying number of children end up in administrative detention as a result of existing immigration laws and policies. In detention facilities, they are at high risk of abuse and neglect. Moreover, minors that are unaccompanied or separated from their parents or guardians are often unable to advocate for their fundamental human rights.

“We hear a lot of hot air about European Values from establishment politicians here at home and in Brussels. The reality is Europe is sliding ever further towards authoritarian policies of exclusion, cruelty, and abuse of human rights. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Detention of Migrant Children.

 “I am calling on our Government to condemn this practice unreservedly, to call for it to end and crucially to do much more to assist with the resettlement of refugees here at home. The current target of 4000 refugees is far too low in the context of the international refugee crisis. As a country that understands all about the horrors of our own history of detention of children, we must take a lead on ending this disgraceful practice.” 

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