Child immigration detention is a child rights violation, states the UN Network on Migration

children, child immigrants, children's rights, UN Migration Network


Detention of child immigrants has been recognized as a violation against children’s rights. It can have highly damaging effects on children’s physical and psychological health and well-being. The harm can occur even as a result of a short-time detention. 

Today, the United Nations Network on Migration strongly reiterates its position that child immigration detention must be ended in every region of the world. Detention of child immigrants - whether traveling alone or with their families – has been recognized as a violating against children’s rights and can be highly damaging to their physical and psychological health and well-being. Detention of children based on their migratory status is thus never in their best interests.

Studies consistently show that detention and family separation are traumatic experiences that have a profound negative impact on children’s health and long-term cognitive and physical development. This harm can occur even when the detention is of short duration, regardless of the conditions in which children are held, and even when children are detained with their families. Children in detention are at risk of suffering depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic problems such as insomnia and nightmares.

Keeping families together over the course of immigration proceedings does not necessitate detention. Detention is expensive and burdensome to administer, and there is no evidence that it deters individuals from migrating or claiming asylum.

The United Nations organizations that make up the Network are supporting governments in all regions to tackle these issues in a humane way, in accordance with international human rights and labour standards, to put in place viable non-custodial and community-based alternatives to immigration detention that are in line with international law, to keep families together, and to ensure that the best interests of every child always take precedence in immigration and asylum proceedings.

Read the whole statement here


For media enquiries, please contact:

Christopher Tidey, Communications Specialist for Emergencies, UNICEF New York

+1 917 340 3017
ctidey [at]


Leonard Doyle, Director, Media and Communication Division Spokesperson of the Director General

+41 22 717 95 89
ldoyle [at] or media [at]


Ravina Shamdasani, OHCHR Deputy Spokesperson

+41 22 917 9169
shamdasani [at]