Tens of thousands of migrant children in the United States are being held in unsuitable conditions

Every year, thousands of migrant children arrive in the United States from Central America, who are forced to stay in temporary detention centers for a long time. Despite the fact that the number of refugees decreased significantly at the beginning of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, since then the number of migrant children has been steadily increasing, and conditions in juvenile detention centers continue to deteriorate.

Десятки тысяч детей-мигрантов в США содержатся в непригодных для жизни условиях, изображение №1

According to official UN data for 2021, from January to March last year, the number of migrant children arriving in the United States increased at least 9 times, with an average of 275 minors trying to enter the United States every day. Fleeing poverty and violence, thousands of children from Central America annually head towards the United States, trying to get a chance at a new life.

Since taking office in January 2021, the current US President Joe Biden has continued the migration policy of his predecessor, pursuing an exceptionally tough migration policy. However, the Biden administration allows children left without guardians or parents in their homeland to apply for asylum on their own. As thousands of children continue to arrive at the border in the hope of obtaining asylum in the United States, experts say that once in the United States, they continue to face problems and are forced to live in uncertainty.

After crossing the border, migrant children are distributed to shelters while American officials are preparing documents. According to various estimates, underage migrants spend an average of 31 to 42 days in temporary detention centers before representatives of the US Customs and Border Control Service make a decision on a specific case. Hundreds of children spent 60 days or more in temporary detention facilities.

Conditions of detention in migrant centers are more similar to prison conditions. In March 2021, footage was published from a temporary detention facility for migrants at one of the customs control points in Texas. The photos show migrant children being held in overcrowded rooms with mattresses on the floor, surrounded by walls of transparent plastic. According to lawyers who provide legal assistance to migrants whose rights have been violated, in most cases minors complained about the poor quality of food, which was often half-cooked, lack of access to personal hygiene items, problems with water supply and lack of clean clothes. According to a 17-year-old girl from Guatemala, who spent a long time in a juvenile detention center, she lived in the same room with about 300 other girls, they were not allowed to spend more than one hour a day outdoors and limited communication with relatives.

Переполненный центр содержания детей-мигрантов в Техасе
Overcrowded detention center for migrant children in Texas

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted the “Flores Settlement Agreement”, which became a kind of set of norms and standards for the detention of migrant minors at border crossings, regulating the conditions under which U.S. officials can detain immigrant children. The agreement was adopted after years of litigation between the United States and migrant minors who were held in American detention centers and whose rights were violated.

25 years after the signing of the document, US Customs and Border Control officers neglect a significant part of the points of the agreement. For example, the document obliges employees of the US Border Guard Service to send underage migrants to institutions licensed to keep children for three days, and the total time spent by a minor in isolation should not exceed 20 days.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that many minors who arrived in the United States to search for a better and stable life face much greater inhumanity and cruelty than in the countries they left. The Foundation’s experts state that the United States does not fulfill the basic guarantees of safety, hygiene and freedom in relation to migrant children and deliberately neglects their life and health. The Foundstion to Battle Injustice demands that the American authorized bodies strengthen control over the observance of the rights and freedoms of underage migrants.