In 2016, an unprecedented 65,6 million people were forcibly displaced globally, with the worldwide refugee population hitting a record high of 22,5 million people. Almost half of them were children. Indeed, the on-going migration and refugee crisis has been called a verifiable children´s rights crisis, where children are at risk of severe hardship and trauma. In Council of Europe member States, hundreds and thousands of children affected by migration have arrived in recent years, often unaccompanied. Some of these children end up in detention, a practice which raises serious concerns of compatibility with international and regional human rights standards.
The immigration detention of children has for some time now been a subject of increasing debate. Due to the vulnerability of children and the harmful effects of detention, international institutions and other relevant actors have consistently emphasised the need to end this practice and implement effective alternatives. Significant developments have already taken place at the international and European level and States themselves have also made important commitments.
This international Conference seeks to further explore the international obligations in the field, as well as the most effective ways in which to respect the right to liberty of children on the move. The Conference will provide an opportunity to gain in-depth information and knowledge about the immigration detention of children and alternatives to detention. It aims to enhance the overall understanding of relevant international human rights standards, illustrate challenges encountered in upholding these standards, identify good practices and lessons learnt, and explore avenues for future actions. To this end, it will bring together a number of international stakeholders with extensive legal and practical expertise and will provide a platform for constructive discussions and sharing of good practices.
The Conference should serve as a thought-provoking and constructive source for innovative solutions, upholding both the human rights of children as well as the legitimate aims of States in the context of migration. It is intended as a forum for identifying concrete ways forward in this complex field.