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Protecting the Rights of Children Deprived of Their Liberty during COVID-19

Learn more about protecting the rights of children deprived of their liberty during COVID-19.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) applies to all children in all contexts, including the hundreds of thousands of children deprived of their liberty in detention centres globally. Article 24 of the CRC states that children have the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Children deprived of liberty in locked facilities are at increased risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Equally, public health measures to control the spread of the virus are likely to negatively impact the protection and well-being of children in detention due to reduced care levels and reduced family and community support.

This includes children detained because they are:

  • In conflict with the law;
  • In the company of their parents or caregivers;
  • In immigration detention; or
  • Being held on national security grounds.

Children deprived of their liberty:

  • Are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 because of the confined conditions in which they live.
  • Face greater challenges to self-isolation or physical distancing, especially in facilities that are overcrowded.
  • May not be able to maintain required hygiene measures, especially in facilities that are unclean and where security or infrastructure reduce access to water, sanitation and basic hygiene.
  • Are more likely to have poor health and nutrition and to experience psychosocial, physical and mental health issues when compared to the general population.
  • Are likely to have limited or no access to quality services including mental health, psychosocial support, and social and educational services.
  • Can face increased risks of violence, abuse and neglect as a result of virus prevention and control measures that may reduce family contact and reduce staffing and care levels.

As a result of these factors, detention facilities place:

  • Children at severe risk of contracting the virus.
  • Children at increased risk of harm as a result of virus prevention, control and containment measures.
  • Staff working in these facilities (e.g. police officers, correction officers, caregivers, social workers, health workers, etc.—as well as their families and communities) at higher risk, particularly when equipped with inadequate protective and hygiene supplies.

Due to COVID-19 outbreaks in jails and detention centres, many countries are now taking steps to reduce the number of children in detention.

In some countries, measures to control the spread of COVID 19 (such as closure of courts, suspension of criminal trials or hearings, restrictions on movement, etc.) are curtailing the release of detainees, even when amnesties or general release orders aimed at decongesting detention facilities are in place.

To gain an in-depth overview of approaches to child protection work for children in detention during COVID-19, we encourage you to read the Technical Note: COVID-19 and Children Deprived of their Liberty.

Your Task

How have risk and protective factors for children deprived of liberty been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in your context?

If you are not sure, research online, ask a colleague or engage with other learners below.

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Protecting Children during COVID-19 and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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