By Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International Scotland Programme Director with Pinar Aksu

THE court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite more than 2,500 children forcibly separated from their parents passed at the end of last week and Amnesty International received reports that hundreds of families remain separated.

By tearing children away from their parents, the Trump administration brazenly violated the human rights of these families. Seeking asylum is not a crime, and families seeking asylum should not be treated like criminals. Now the administration wants the public to choose between different violations: instead of forcibly separating families, jailing entire families in detention.

Amnesty International is calling for the US Government to reunify separated families, halt the forced separation of children from their parents or guardians, end the detention of families seeking asylum, and immediately release families from detention.

Pinar Aksu, 26, fled Turkey with her family when she was eight. Pinar, who has been living in Scotland for more than a decade, knows from personal experience why child immigration detention should never be an option:

“As a child, I was detained for more than two months in the UK while seeking asylum. I was 15 and my family had fled from Turkey years earlier. I didn’t know what the term ‘asylum seeker’ meant and I didn’t know what a detention centre was.

“It is an experience I will never forget. I witnessed young children, pregnant women, and families being separated from each other. They were locked behind four walls, not knowing when they would get out.

“Many families were sent back to their country of origin against their will. Sometimes the guards used force and dragged people out of the detention centre.

“My family was granted leave to remain in the UK, but immigration detention remains a reality for hundreds of people who have been detained without a time limit. Hundreds of people do not know what the future will look like, locked up simply because of their migration status.

"Immigration detention is never OK, and there are no circumstances in which the detention of migrant children can be justified.

"The UK Government pledged to end child immigration detention in 2010, describing it as a 'moral outrage'. Despite this, the UK Government is among those who have advocated at the UN for the right to detain children as a “last resort”. Even when the Government deems it a reasonable, necessary and proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, detention always has a harmful impact on children and is never in their best interests. Child detention has a life-long negative impact, not just on children but on society as a whole.

"Even short periods of detention can cause enormous harm, as we all saw in the horrible recent footage from the US. No child should ever be detained simply for crossing a border. There are always other options. The answer is simple: allow children and their families to live in regular houses, like regular people, while their migration case is resolved.

"We must protect the human rights of people on the move. This is a time when we need to be asking world leaders to really think about the issue of migration, including how they can improve the governance of migration and strengthen the contribution of migrants to sustainable development.

"No one should ever be detained for seeking asylum and safety in another country. We need a just and fair immigration system based on human rights. After all, asylum seekers and refugees are people with names and stories, not just numbers with labels."