UNHCR – IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF call on European states to end child detention

Geneva, July 5, 2022 – In a statement released today, UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the IOM, the International Organization for Migration, described in detail the practice of detaining children by immigration services in European countries and suggested that these countries A series of options and recommendations.

Detention has a profound and negative impact on the health and well-being of children and can have a lasting negative impact on children’s cognitive development. Detention has been shown to increase psychological distress, and detained children are susceptible to depression and anxiety as well as violence and abuse.

“Several countries in Europe have proven that detention options are safe, dignified and affordable for children and families. We strongly urge all European states to adhere to these procedures to protect the rights and well-being of refugee and migrant children. “Says Pascal Moreau, UNHCR’s Regional Director for Europe.

In this joint assessment conducted by IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF in 38 countries across Europe, the agencies found many particularly disturbing examples of child detention. The report further reveals that detention options, such as supported independent living, foster care and other child-friendly and child-centered models are already in various European countries and offer solutions. Effective and efficient in financial terms for the host states.

“Uprooted children are the first and foremost children, regardless of their origin and the reason they had to leave home. Detaining children is never in their best interest, it is a violation of their rights and should be avoided at all costs. “Afshan Khan said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for Refugee and Immigrant Responses in Europe.

Recommendations made by the three organizations include strengthening detention options for children and families, greater investment in reception conditions and the national child protection system, and capacity building.

“In the context of human displacement, the unity of the family unit and the best interests of the child go hand in hand. We encourage the government to replace child and family detention systems with community-based programs, case management and other alternatives that are based on people’s rights and have proven to be very effective.Ola Henriksen, IOM Regional Director for EEA, EU and NATO, concluded.

Read Advocacy Brief

Note to journalists:

This advocacy brief has led to the publication of several joint publications on the results of ongoing cooperation between the three organizations and the situation of refugees, migrants and unaccompanied children in Europe. This includes the Access to Education Brief, published in September 2019, as well as a bi-annual newsletter presenting trends and data on accompanying, unaccompanied and isolated refugee and migrant children in Europe.

About IOM

As a leading intergovernmental organization on migration, with a presence in 174 member states and more than 100 countries, we work closely with our partners to promote safe, humane and orderly migration that benefits migrants and society.

For more information about IOM, please visit www.iom.int.


The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, provides protection to people who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution. We save lives, protect rights and help build a better future.

For more information on UNHCR’s work in Europe, visit www.unhcr.org/europe.


UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child through everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to transform this commitment into concrete action, with a special focus on reaching out to the most vulnerable and excluded children in the world, for the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information on UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/eca.

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