Stop detaining children on the grounds that they are migrants

Administrative detention of migrant children in Switzerland is not in line with the best interest of the child - a right our country committed itself internationally to guarantee. Through common advocacy and surveys Tdh does what it can to ensure that child migrants are no longer placed in administrative detention.

Administrative detention is never in the child’s best interests

In Switzerland it is legal to place young migrants aged 15 to 18 in administrative detention for a maximum of 12 months. However, administrative detention is never in the child’s best interest. Even if only for a short period, administrative detention has damaging and irreversible effects on a child’s mental health and on the exercise of their rights. 

Terre des hommes’ commitment

Terre des hommes is committed to ensuring that children are no longer detained for administrative reasons related to migration. The application of the federal law authorising the administrative detention of migrant children aged 15 to 18 varies throughout Switzerland. Their attribution to one or the other of the cantons has a radical influence on the treatment to which they are entitled, as the differences between cantons are so enormous.

Even more worrying: Tdh noted by making a new inventory of the situation that, although prohibited, the detention of children under 15 years of age, whether or not accompanied by their parents, has been observed as a practice in some recently surveyed cantons. In addition, the lack of reliable data from the Confederation on the number of minor migrants in detention is worrying and distorts the analysis.

This is denounced in Tdh's 2018 report on administrative detention of migrant minors in Switzerland (only available in French and German), which also recommends non-custodial alternatives to administrative detention. In 2016, we had already published our report "Illegal detention of migrant children in Switzerland: a status report" in order to establish an overview of this practice in Switzerland. According to new data collected, 83 children were placed in administrative detention between 2015 and 2017.


«Children in the context of migration, whether accompanied, separated or unaccompanied should never be remanded in custody.»

Dr h.c Jean Zermatten, former chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of a Child