Children deprived of liberty

COPCAT Shorts – Why the ICRC works in prisons?

The Canadian Red Cross monitors places of immigration detention in Canada, including federally-run detention centres and provincial prisons. The organization does so for some of the same reasons as depicted in the above video.

Published by the Canadian Border Services Agency on 14 February 2019, a first report highlighted the findings of Canadian Red Cross monitoring of immigration detention in Canada in the period September 2017 to March 2018. A French version of this key report is also available on the same website.   

According to the Canadian Red Cross, it endeavours to visit detention centres to which it has access four times per year with a view to making an assessment based on Canadian and international standards. During visits to detention centres it focuses on the following aspects:

  • the treatment of detainees (by staff and other detainees);
  • conditions of detention;
  • ability for detainees to contact and maintain contact with family members;
  • and legal safeguards.
Special Issue
Detained abstracts 1 by Greenmonster (2010).

More detailed information about the above approach can be found in a previously published article on this website about the first Canadian Red Cross annual report. Its main components are also highlighted in the featured video clip.

The number of migrants deprived of their liberty in Canada is not at all insignificant. According to the Canada Border Services Agency, in the fiscal year 2017-2018 some 8,355 persons were detained for a total of nearly 120,000 detention days in Canada. Of this number, 6,609 persons were held in one of the country’s three Immigration Holding Centres, while the remainder were detained in provincial and other facilities.

Over the past year the Canada OPCAT Project has published various articles on the detention of migrants in Canada, including on the December 2018 recommendation of the UN Committee against Torture that a permanent oversight structure be instituted in the country. If ever ratified by Canada, any future NPM under the OPCAT would inevitably require unfettered access to all facilities where migrants are deprived of their liberty throughout the country.

Yet with seemingly little progress on the OPCAT ratification front, such an NPM might be long in the coming. Thus, for the here and now the Canadian Red Cross’ monitoring of immigration detention remains a key part of the Canadian detention oversight framework, for some of the reasons very well explained in the above ICRC video.


Read Juan Mendez’s article on the Right to a Healthy Prison Environment.

Learn More about the recently published Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

Find out more about the Joint UN Statement on Child Immigration Detention.

Read an OPCAT Focus on Immigration Detention.

Posted by mp in Children deprived of liberty, ICRC, Immigration detention, Independent detention monitors, OPCAT, Oversight bodies

Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference

On 18 November 2019 the Independent Expert leading the global study on children deprived of liberty, Professor Manfred Nowak, spoke at the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

The event marked the official release to the media of the final report on the ‘Global study on children deprived of liberty’, which Professor Nowak had originally submitted to the Third Committee of the General Assembly during its 74th session in New York on 8 October 2019.

Professor Manfred Nowak appearing at the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on 18 November 2019 – copyright of UN Web TV.

During the press conference Professor Nowak outlined the focus and findings of the final report, which examined six situations of children deprived of their liberty, including in the administration of justice, children living in prisons with their primary caregivers, migration-related detention, institutions, armed conflict and national security contexts. Shockingly, the study had found the following:

“Data collected for the study and well-grounded scientific approximations indicate that, altogether, a minimum of between 1.3 and 1.5 million children are deprived of liberty per year. Of those, the largest number are in institutions (430,000–680,000), followed by those in the administration of justice (410,000), migration-related detention (330,000), in armed conflict situations (35,000) and for national security reasons (1,500). An additional 19,000 children are living with their primary caregivers in prisons.”

Worse still, the above figures were deemed to be conservative estimations. Canada, like all countries, makes its own contribution to the above figures. Just this past week, CBC Radio threw a spotlight on a new report by the Canadian Council for Refugees, highlighting that children were still being held in immigration detention on a ‘regular basis’, despite government directives to the contrary.

An earlier Canada OPCAT Project article looked at the need and key recommendation of the report for independent oversight of such detention contexts, including immigration detention, through the ratification of the OPCAT.

Spooling backwards, and as noted in the summary of Professor Nowak’s report, in its resolution 69/157 of 18 December 2014 the UN General Assembly had invited the Secretary-General to commission an in-depth study on children deprived of liberty. Professor Manfred Nowak, a former highly impressive UN Special Rapporteur on torture, was appointed as the Independent Expert leading the study in October 2016.

The final report represents the first scientific attempt, on the basis of global data, to comprehend the magnitude of the situation of children deprived of liberty, its possible justifications and root causes, as well as conditions of detention and their harmful impact on the health and development of children. Even the briefest of glances at the final report’s conclusions and multiple related recommendations reveal that there is a great deal of work to be to done in this regard.

During the press conference Professor Nowak replied to a wide range of questions relating to the report and children deprived of their liberty from around the globe, including on the OPCAT and scope of deprivation of liberty. Interested readers can watch the full hour-long press conference on demand on UN Web TV, including a summary of the report’s key findings (ending at around the 15-minute mark).

Professor Nowak was scheduled to present his full report at two events in Geneva on 19 November 2019, more details about which can be found on the Twitter account and web-page of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.


Watch the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference.

Find out more about Children Deprived of Liberty – The United Nations Global Study.

Read the report in English or in French.

Read why the UN Independent Expert Manfred Nowak urges OPCAT ratification.

Consult the new International Detention Coalition briefing paper on alternatives to immigration detention, Alternatives: Learning What Works & Why?

Posted by mp in Children deprived of liberty