United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has condemned the conditions in which migrants and refugees are being held in the U. S.
Bachelet in a statement on Monday, emphasised that children should never be held in immigration detention, or separated from their families.
“As a pediatrician, but also as a mother and a former head of State, I am deeply shocked that children are forced to sleep on the floor in overcrowded facilities.
“This is without access to adequate healthcare or food, and with poor sanitation conditions,” she said.
Bachelet citing several UN human rights bodies, said that detaining migrant children might constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment “that is prohibited under international law,” she stated.
The human rights chief noted that immigration detention was never in the best interests of a child.
“Even for short periods under good conditions, it can have a serious impact on their health and development.
“Consider the damage being done every day by allowing this alarming situation to continue,” she said.
Bachelet referenced the “disturbing report” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, on the conditions in migrant centres along the southern border.
In the report, the department outlined “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults” at border facilities in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
It came with photographs illustrating the overcrowding of migrants in small, fenced areas.
Bachelet urged the authorities to find non-custodial alternatives for migrant and refugee children and adults.
“Any deprivation of liberty of adult migrants and refugees should be a measure of last resort.
“If migrants or refugees are detained, it should be for the shortest period, with due process safeguards and under conditions that fully meet all relevant international human rights standards.
“States do have the sovereign prerogative to decide on the conditions of entry and stay of foreign nationals.
“But clearly, border management measures must comply with the State’s human rights obligations and should not be based on narrow policies aimed only at detecting, detaining and expeditiously deporting irregular migrants.”
The human rights chief elaborated that in most of these cases, the migrants and refugees embarked on perilous journeys with their children in search of protection and dignity and away from violence and hunger.
“When they finally believe they have arrived in safety, they may find themselves separated from their loved ones and locked in undignified conditions, this should never happen anywhere,’’ Bachelet said.