UNICEF position on compulsory detention centres in East Asia and Pacific
2 March 2012 – Bangkok: UNICEF is concerned about the use of compulsory detention centres in some countries in the East Asia and Pacific region where children, many of whom have been exploited in the sex trade, living on the streets, or detained for drug abuse, are being held.
There is no evidence that these forms of detention are an effective environment for treating drug dependency or for children who have been exploited, abused, or lack adequate care and protection. While these detention centres are said to be voluntary and designed to rehabilitate or treat individuals, reports have indicated gross violations of human rights taking place at these centres.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, international law clearly states that deprivation of liberty of any person under age 18 shall be used only as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, based on the best interest of the child.
No child should be subject to arbitrary detention, inhumane or degrading treatment, exploitation or abuse, by any authority or individual.
No child or young person under the age of 18 should be admitted or detained in any facility without due process of law, even when a child's parents or caregivers agree or voluntarily seek admission of the child to the facility.
Evidence and accumulated scientific knowledge have demonstrated that a targeted and differentiated approach should be used when addressing the specific needs of children and youth who require treatment for drug dependency.
Responses proven to be most appropriate and most effective - in terms of cost, coverage and rehabilitation success - are those that are family-based and community-centred. These should be the first option for children in full compliance with their rights to welfare, protection, care and justice. Evidence has also shown that separation from family is damaging to a child's growth and development and thus, where necessary, additional support to the family as a whole should be provided.
Governments should strengthen community-centred protection and rehabilitation services for the recovery of drug dependent children and youth, as well as providing other preventative and protective measures for vulnerable children and youth.
The Committee on the Rights of Children stresses that while the exploitation and abuse of children must be criminalized, no child who is a victim of exploitation, or by any means coerced by adults to engage in illegal activities, should be criminalized or penalized including through forced detention.
UNICEF calls on State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to desist confining children in compulsory detention centres and to take all appropriate measures to promote the physical and psychological recovery and social integration of children and young people through child sensitive procedures.