United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday that she is “appalled by the conditions” in which the U.S. is holding migrants and refugees at border detention camps.
“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, without access to adequate healthcare or food, and with poor sanitation conditions,” Bachelet said.
“Detaining a child even for short periods under good conditions can have a serious impact on their health and development – consider the damage being done every day by allowing this alarming situation to continue.” Bachelet noted that immigration detention is never in the best interests of a child.
Noting the disturbing report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on the conditions in migrant centers along the southern border, 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,” she said. If detention does take place, the High Commissioner emphasized, it should be for the shortest period of time, with due process safeguards and in 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,” she added.
“In most of these cases, the migrants and refugees have 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.”
As the Washington Post notes: “Several human rights bodies have determined that detention of migrant children under current conditions at the U.S. border violates international law as ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.’ ”
Trump accused the media on Sunday of “writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers.”