US watchdog describes trauma of separated migrant children

The US began separating children from their parents in May 2018 as part of a “zero tolerance” policy toward migrants who illegally cross the border. — Reuters  pic
The US began separating children from their parents in May 2018 as part of a “zero tolerance” policy toward migrants who illegally cross the border. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Sept 5 — Migrant children separated from their families at the US-Mexico border suffered post-traumatic stress and acute grief, according to a US watchdog report released yesterday.

The US began separating children from their parents in May 2018 as part of a “zero tolerance” policy toward migrants who illegally cross the border.

But six weeks into the practice that prompted a domestic and international outcry, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would stop separating families unless the parents posed “a risk” to their child.

Caregivers found that “separation from parents and a hectic reunification process added to the trauma that children had already experienced,” the report by the Health and Human Services inspector general said.

“According to programme directors and mental health clinicians, separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress than did children who were not separated.

“Some separated children expressed acute grief that caused them to cry inconsolably.”

The report said that some children suffered mental stress as they did not understand why they had been separated, while others were “angry and confused” as they believed they had been abandoned by their parents.

Some children felt guilty, and worried about their parents’ welfare.

The inspector general office, which monitors the Health and Human Services department, visited 45 facilities last year.

“Some separated children isolated themselves and took longer to adjust to the facility and its routine, for example refusing to eat or to participate in activities,” the report said.

One programme director described caring for children who were psychotic, self-harming or actively attempted suicide.

Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign. — AFP

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