Switzerland needs to do more to end child immigration detention

Switzerland scored 67 out of 115 points when it comes to immigration detention of children and still has room to make improvements. This is the conclusion drawn by the Switzerland NextGen Index Committee composed of Swiss civil society organizations – Terre des hommes – helping children worldwide, Swiss Refugee Council (OSAR) and Swiss Committee for UNICEF.

This NextGen Index initiative of the Global Campaign to End Child Detention assesses 20 countries and their ability to protect migrant children and respect their right to liberty. 

The Switzerland NextGen Index Committee analyzed the Swiss legal framework and practices to answer the following questions asked by the Global Campaign to End Child Detention:

  • Does your country detain children?
  • What progress is being made to end child immigration detention?
  • What can your country do to meet its international obligations?

Switzerland has scored 67 out of a total of 115 points on the Index. One factor explaining the less than perfect score is that by law children between 15 and 18 years old can be placed in immigration detention. Immigration detention is never in the best interests of any child, therefore immigration detention of all children should come to an end. Alternatives and promising practices are observed in Swiss Cantons, such as care arrangements, foster care, host families, existing shelter accommodations, etc.

«Alongside many actors at international and national level, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, we have repeatedly called for an end to child immigration detention. Children and families can instead be placed in community based alternatives that are age appropriate and respect their rights. The NextGen Index helps to give a comprehensive snapshot of the situation in Switzerland, enabling to find better solutions within Switzerland and in comparison with other countries.» Valentina Darbellay, Head of Terre des hommes Advocacy Program and member of the Switzerland NextGen Index Committee.

Very positive protection mechanisms are already implemented in the swiss migration law and system to care adequately for children. The ratification of the majority of relevant Conventions and Protocols; the mechanism for judicial review of detention decisions and the monitoring by independent bodies are essential steps toward a system respectful of children’s rights.

However, areas for improvement such as better legal representation of children still remain, and appropriate care of children in a migration context is therefore not yet guaranteed. The Switzerland NextGen Index Committee has come up with a comprehensive set of concrete recommendations to promote appropriate consideration of the child’s best interests when elaborating and implementing migration laws and processes. These include: establish of an individualized and systematic assessment of the best interests of the child, improve the quality of data collection, and uphold the principle of family unity which would end the separation of families and family imprisonment.

With 67 points, Switzerland stands 5th in the Global NextGen Index after Brazil, Ireland, Italy and Canada. There remains work to be done before achieving the full score of 115 points through the implementation of a qualitative and coherent system that fully respects the rights and the well-being of all children, regardless of their legal status.

Find out more about the NextGen Index

The Switzerland NextGen Index Committee