OTTAWA, Canada, April 12 (UNHCR) – Following the roundtable today on Parliament Hill discussing the immigration detention of children, Senator Mobina Jaffer and Senator Victor Oh joined forces with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to reiterate the call to end the detention of children for immigration purposes in Canada.
Senator Jaffer, Senator Oh and UNHCR commended Canada for its commitment to reform the immigration detention system; in particular, the ongoing efforts to end the detention of children and expand the availability of alternatives to detention (ATD).
Several studies show that detention is never in the best interests of children. Even very short periods of detention can undermine the psychological and physical well-being of children and compromise their cognitive development.
Participants at the roundtable today discussed concrete measures that Canada should adopt in developing ATD mechanisms which allow children and their families to remain together. These practices are in line with the principle of family unity and the best interest of the child. Instead of custodial settings children must be allowed to reside in an open, community context, with access to educational, social and health services, while their asylum and immigration status is being resolved.
The roundtable was attended by parliamentarians, experts and service providers, and offered a forum to reflect on challenges posed by the detention of children and how to address gaps that exist in the Canadian and international protection systems.
Latest statistics provided by CBSA indicate that a total of 221 children were detained in 2013, 162 in 2014 and 117 in 2015 (78 of which were refugee claimants).
“I have been in protection courts as a lawyer, I have been in youth courts as a lawyer and I’ve been in family courts as a lawyer. I have fought for what’s called “the best interests of the child,” but I never in my wildest dreams thought that a minister of our great country would say that it is in the best interests of the child to detain that child.”
The Honourable Mobina Jaffer, Senator – British Columbia
“The legal or de facto detention of children and youth for immigration purposes is clearly against the best interests of the child. Canada must put a stop to this harmful practice and adopt alternatives to detention that allow children to remain with their parents or guardians in community-based contexts.”
The Honourable Victor Oh, Senator – Ontario
“The significant reduction over the last couple of years in the number of minors detained is a sign of Canada’s commitment to the well-being of children. Keeping families together and extending to them Canada’s welcome through community support is the way to go.”
Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada.
Office of Senator Jaffer: Gavin Jeffray, 613-992-0189
Office of Senator Oh: Jean Castro-Werry, 613-943-1880
UNHCR Canada: Gisèle Nyembwe, 613-232-0909 ext. 225
Mobina Jaffer is a senator representing British Columbia. She is deputy chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence and is a member of the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, as well as the Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration.
Victor Oh is a senator representing Ontario. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, as well as the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been protecting the rights and well-being of refugees all over the world for over 65 years. It works to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home. As part of its global strategy “Beyond Detention 2014-2019”, UNHCR advocates for the ending of child detention and supports governments in developing care arrangements and alternatives to detention for children and families in the asylum and migration context.