25 September 2020

National Council votes for ban on administrative detention of minors

None Administrative detention For children
None Administrative detention For children

We are very pleased that the National Council has adopted the professional initiative "Stop administrative detention for children". Many thanks to all National Councillors who voted for the bill! In doing so, the Grand Chamber underlines the Confederation's obligation to respect children's rights. The initiative of the Canton of Geneva calls on the legislature to ban so-called administrative detention in the deportation procedure for underage migrants. We have been campaigning for this for a long time.

It could hardly be more concise: after a tie of 95 for and 95 against, the National Council followed a motion for order and voted a second time on the Geneva Professional Ethics Initiative. Thanks to a narrow majority and several abstentions in the second vote, business "Stop Administrative detention for children!" now one step further. We would like to express our sincere thanks to the National Councillors who have used their votes to support children's rights in Switzerland.

We are also pleased with the result because the Commission that had consulted us before rejected the proposal. Nor had the Council of States, which first decided on the matter last year, given its approval. This is despite the fact that administrative detention for minors clearly violates child rights conventions.

Children take damage in prison

Switzerland places children in so-called administrative detention because migration law provisions are to be enforced against them or their parents. However, international provisions and rulings such as those of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stipulate that states must avoid this form of detention.

When children are in prison, a majority - around 85 percent - suffer irreversible psychological damage. Especially because the children are already in difficult life situations and vulnerable in their situation as migrants. That is why we demand a ban on Administrative detention for minors and instead solutions with non-custodial measures.

Only in this way can minors be treated as children and their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child be respected. They are entitled to this protection regardless of their migration status.

Global problem, Switzerland must set an example

Worldwide several million children in administrative detention. Children are also detained in the EU and in Switzerland. In 2016, 14 EU countries will have around 180 minors from the migration sector in administrative detention. There are no exact figures from Switzerland. However, the data indicate that in the years from 2015 to 2017, 83 children were in administrative detention and 35 children were briefly detained.

The National Council has now laid the first foundations for a nationwide ban on this practice. The matter will now go back to the Council of States. We demand that it revise its decision from last year and adopt the professional initiative. There is no reason to maintain administrative detention for minors, as the alternatives are not only more child-friendly but also cheaper and more efficient.

We stand by our demands internationally and in Switzerland:

  • Administrative detention for migrant children (accompanied or unaccompanied) must be abolished. It is never in the overriding interest of the child.
  • We demand more and more precise data on the administrative detention of minors. This is the only way to analyse the problem and take measures to remedy it.
  • Alternatives to administrative detention of minors must be defined and implemented.
  • In the interest of the child, parents of underage children must not be imprisoned on the basis of migration law provisions and families must not be separated as a result. We demand alternative measuresin order to the imprisonment of ...to prevent children.

Please read our position paper (PDF) and the Post "Stop administrative detention for children!"

Photo: terre des hommes switzerland / Annette Mokler

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