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Detention of migrant children must be put to stop, say NGOs

Amnesty International, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Association for Legal Intervention warn that the draft Foreigners Act fails to provide remedies against detaining immigrant children in prison-like guarded facilities.

The coalition of the NGOs has been campaigning for several months seeking to ban the detention of foreign migrants’ children. According to the coalition, the draft Foreigners Act, currently open to public consultations, should include a strict prohibition of the placement of migrant children in detention centres. At the same time, the NGOs propose introducing alternative measures to supervise the children’s and parent’s stay in Poland.

The bill establishes that the unaccompanied children aged 13 or older, who stay in Poland with irregular legal status, may be placed in a guarded centre. This age limit is contrary to international law, for instance the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Every child, regardless of their legal status, should receive a special care and placing minors in detention facilities adversely affects their psychological and physical development. Detention never serves the best interests of a child. Guarded centres are not places for minors”, says Maciej Fagasiński, Amnesty International.

Jacek Białas, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, argues: “The Polish law should introduce the prohibition of detaining migrants below 18 years of age, both accompanied and unaccompanied.” The coalition advocates alternative, non-custodial methods of supervising foreigners’ stay in Poland.

One of the key points of the NGOs criticism is the absence of proper education for detained migrant children. “Children staying in guarded centres do not go to school but attend limited-curriculum courses held on the centre’s premises. The modifications proposed in the new law won’t change that”, reckons Aleksandra Chrzanowska, Association for Legal Intervention.

In the opinion of the organisations, the draft Foreigners Act fails to introduce any significant change to improve the situation of minor migrants in Poland. At the same time, the proposed solutions may result in a breach of the Poland’s international obligations in the area of child’s rights protection, in particular the protection of the broadly interpreted best interests of the child.

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