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Nicole Hernandez, from Guerrero, Mexico holds on to her mother as they wait with other families to request political asylum in the United States, across the border in Tijuana, Mexico on June 13, 2018. The family has waited for about a week in this Mexican border city, hoping for a chance to escape widespread violence in their home state.
Gregory Bull/AP
Citizenship

British PM: Separation of Migrant Children in US Is 'Deeply Disturbing' and 'Wrong'

Photographs, audio recordings, and other reports of desperate, crying children separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border have shocked the world this month.

US President Donald Trump’s new “zero tolerance” family-separation policy for unauthorised border crossings has drawn condemnation from world leaders, first ladies, and religious leaders, among many others.

Now, British Prime Minister Theresa May has joined the ranks of those speaking out against the policy — which has already been branded immoral, abusive, and a violation of human rights. 

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“The pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing,” said May, when questioned on the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. “This is wrong, this is not something that we agree with. This is not the United Kingdom’s approach.”

May went on to add that she “clearly, wholly, and unequivocally” disagreed with the policy. 

Ian Blackford, a Scottish National Party MP, and a number of Labour MPs, including former leader Ed Miliband, challenged the prime minister on the issue, reported the BBC

“Infants as young as 18-months are being caged like animals,” said Blackford. “Babies as young as 8-months are being left isolated in rooms and, last night, the former head of US immigration and customs enforcement said he expects hundreds of these children never to be reunited with their parents. Lost in the system, orphaned by the US government.” 

Read more: World Political and Religious Leaders Condemn US Policy of Separating Migrant Kids

May also confirmed that, despite the criticism of the US migration policy, Trump’s visit to the UK will go ahead next month. 

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“We have a special, long, and enduring relationship with the United States and I think it is right, there will be a range of issues that I will be discussing with President Trump, a range of issues about our shared interests,” she continued.

“And I think it’s important that we welcome, we make sure that when we see the President of the United States here in the United Kingdom, we’re able to have those discussions, that means when we disagree with what they’re doing, we say so.” 

Blackford went on to describe May’s answer as “disappointing,” and highlighted that the UK is the only EU country to detain people “indefinitely.” 

Read more: Texas Detention Center for Migrant Children Compared to Prison

May responded by saying that the UK “ended the routine detention of families with children … early after 2010.” 

“We do on occasions need to detain people but we take their welfare extremely seriously,” she added. 

Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the southern US border, according to NPR

The policy is unique to the Trump administration, added NPR, and it could choose to put a stop to the practice and release families from detention at any time. 

Read more: Melania Trump, Laura Bush Condemn US Policy of Separating Migrant Kids From Parents

That’s what many of the international community are calling for, including the United Nations, which said earlier this month that the US should immediately halt the practice. 

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“The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN human rights agency (OHCHR) in a statement. 

“The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives and other administrative concerns,” she added. 

Nevertheless, Trump has stood firm in the face of the international criticism, reportedly saying on Monday that the US would “not be a migrant camp … not on my watch.” 

You can take action here as part of Global Citizen’s campaigning efforts in support of refugees and migrants around the world.