Children in detention are at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and should be released

“Hundreds of thousands of children currently detained in countries around the world are at grave risk of contracting COVID-19 according to Unicef..

“Many are being held in confined and overcrowded spaces with inadequate access to nutrition, healthcare and hygiene services – conditions that are highly conducive to the spread of diseases like COVID-19. An outbreak in one of these facilities could happen at any moment.

“Detained children are also more vulnerable to neglect, abuse and gender-based violence, especially if staffing levels or care are negatively impacted by the pandemic or containment measures.

“Across the globe, children are in the juvenile justice system including in pre-trial custody, held in immigration detention or on other administrative grounds, detained in relation to armed conflict,  national security or activism, or living with parents in detention. These children and those at risk of contracting the virus due to underlying physical and mental health conditions should be released.

“We call on governments and other detaining authorities to urgently release all children who can safely return to their families or an appropriate alternative. Such alternatives include extended families, other family- or community-based care.

“UNICEF also calls for an immediate moratorium on new admissions of children to detention facilities.