UN rights chief ‘appalled’ by US migrant detention conditions
© WikiMedia (U.S. Customs and Border Control)
UN rights chief ‘appalled’ by US migrant detention conditions

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday that she is shocked by the state of migrant children and adults held in detention centers in the US.

Bachelet noted that groups of UN lawmakers have considered the detention of migrant children to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that is in violation of international law.

Bachelet commented: “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 added:

Any deprivation of liberty of adult migrants and refugees should be a measure of last resort. … 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 High Commissioner noted that she was disturbed by the information from a report by the Acting Inspector General of the Office of the Inspector General, a part of the Department of Homeland Security. The report, released July 2, details serious overcrowding and prolonged detention of migrants. Children at three out of five border facilities mentioned in the report had no access to showers, limited access to a change of clothes with no laundry facilities, and other concerns contrary to the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search.

Bachelet recognized the plight of the migrants and called for due process safeguards and conditions in compliance with international human rights standards. The Commissioner stated:

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.

The UN Human Rights twitter account also released a video incorporating Bachelet’s comments.