|June 20,2018-- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes that children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents, his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said on Monday.
His voice was just one of many raised in objection to a recently introduced US policy that separates children from parents who were arrested for illegally crossing from Mexico into the United States.
Some 2,000 children taken from parents have been put in detention centers in southwestern US states, US officials said.
"As a matter of principle, the secretary-general believes that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law," said Dujarric in a statement. "Family unity must be preserved."
The statement, read out by the spokesman at a regular press briefing, is seen by many as directed against the United States.
While the spokesman denied that the statement was directed specifically against the US policy, he admitted that the secretary-general was concerned about the situation along the Mexico-US border.
"What the secretary-general would like to see at all borders is to see people being treated with dignity and respect for their rights, that people claiming asylum be given proper hearings," Dujarric said. "This is not a position that he has specifically against the United States. This is a principled position that he has for the way refugees and migrants are treated the world over."
"We've all been following what's going on at the border and I think he is concerned as anyone else," said Dujarric.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was more direct, saying he was deeply concerned about the US policies that "punish children for their parents' actions."
The Geneva-based UN official cited the American Association of Pediatrics' earlier comments calling the US approach a cruel practice of "government-sanctioned child abuse" which may cause "irreparable harm" with "lifelong consequences."
"The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable," said Zeid.