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Plans to resume detention of migrant children in Belgium

19 December 2016

The Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum of Belgium made a general policy statement announcing plans to resume the practice of detaining migrant children in 2017. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, mr. Muižnieks, warns against the negative consequences the resumption of such practice might have on children and states that: "Immigration detention, even as a measure of last resort and for a short period of time, should never apply to children because it is a disproportionate measure which may have serious detrimental effects on them".


Plans to resume practice of detaining migrant children

The Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum of Belgium expressed his intention to open closed family units near Brussels airport. Since 1 October 2008, families with minor children, who are already present on the Belgian territory and are required to leave the country, are no longer detained in closed centres, but are brought to family units. These family units are individual houses and apartments, which are provided for the temporary stay of the concerned families, giving them some liberties of movement.


Concerns of the Commissioner of Human Rights

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, mr. Muižnieks, addressed a letter to the Secretary urging him to refrain from resuming the practice of detaining migrant children. In his letter he warns against the negative consequences the resumption of such practice might have on young children and expresses that detention, even for a short period of time, is never in a child's best interest.   The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights considers immigration detention a disproportionate measure which may have serious detrimental effects on children and makes reference to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Affaires A.B.  et autres c. France, in which the Court determined that the accumulation of psychological and emotional aggressions children in detention endured, even when the material conditions of the facilities are considered appropriate, can have negative effects on the children that could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.   The Commissioner also stresses that a resumption of the detention practice could jeopardize the important role Belgium has acquired since 2008 as a source of inspiration for other countries in developing alternatives to detention, by bringing Belgium back to the situation prevailing before 2008, which resulted in the country being repeatedly found in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.



Click here for the letter of the Commissioner for Human Rights to the Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum of Belgium

Click here for the reply of the Belgian authorities (in French).


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