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Over 45,000 children released from detention since April 2020 – UNICEF

More than 45,000 children have been released from detention and safely returned to family or an appropriate alternative since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF revealed in its latest reports.

The reports released on Sunday are “Detention of children in the time of COVID” and “Estimating the number of children deprived of their liberty in the administration of justice”.

The first analysis indicated that governments and detaining authorities in at least 84 countries have released thousands of children since April 2020 when UNICEF drew attention to their increased risk of contracting COVID-19 in confined and overcrowded spaces, and called for their immediate release.

“We have long known that justice systems are ill-equipped to handle the specific needs of children – a situation further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, was quoted as saying in a statement.

“We commend countries which heeded our call and released children from detention. By protecting children from conditions that could have exposed them to grave illness, these countries were able to overcome public resistance and spur innovative, age-appropriate justice solutions.

“This has proved something we already knew – child-friendly justice solutions are more than possible.”

According to UNICEF, the study is one of two analyses that illustrate the situation for hundreds of thousands of children deprived of their liberty every year.

Both reports were released ahead of the World Congress on Justice with Children.

Children in detention – including in pre-and post-trial custody, immigration detention, held in relation to armed conflict or national security, or living with parents in detention – are often held in confined and overcrowded spaces.

“They lack adequate access to nutrition, healthcare and hygiene services, and are vulnerable to neglect, physical and psychological abuse, and gender-based violence,” the statement said. “Many are denied access to lawyers and family care, and unable to challenge the legality of their detention.

“COVID-19 has profoundly affected justice for children, shuttering courts and restricting access to essential social and justice services. Evidence shows that many children, including children in street situations, have been detained for violating pandemic curfew orders and movement restrictions.”

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