October 15 2010

"Prison is no place for children"

15/10/2010 - Austria should stop detaining children and halt the deportations of well-integrated foreign families that are denied asylum, Amnesty International, Caritas, Diakonie and SOS Children's Villages Austria said in an official letter to lawmakers on 14 October.

The country also should better protect the rights of non-Austrian minors and become more lenient about allowing young asylum seekers and their parents to stay on humanitarian grounds. Furthermore, the NGOs urged the members of parliament to turn the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into constitutional law.

The appeal comes just days after two 8-year-old twins were taken into custody with their father in an early morning raid and deported back to their native Kosovo. Their mother, who is in psychiatric care, stayed behind. The four had lived in Austria since 2004 but were expelled after being denied asylum and refusing to leave on their own.

"It can't be necessary for the security of the republic to separate two children from their mother and to forcefully get them out of the country," the NGOs wrote in their joint letter presented outside parliament in the Austrian capital, Vienna. They later met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who told reporters that "prison is no place for children" and other solutions had to be found. President Fischer supports the NGO appeal.

"It's tough to grasp why well-integrated families whose children have spent most of their lives in Austria and who speak German better than their mother tongue aren't granted the right to stay for humanitarian reasons," the letter said.