Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The author of a United Nations human rights report maintained that the United States has the world's highest rate of child detention, but he has clarified a number he cited to back up that assertion.
Attorney Manfred Nowak authored the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' "Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty" and voiced sharp criticism of U.S. policy to separate migrant children from parents, calling it "inhuman" and "absolutely prohibited" by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
During a news conference Monday, he said more than 100,000 children remain in migration-related detention. At the time, he wasn't aware that the number from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reflected the total number of children detained throughout 2015, he told NPR.
He said the figure, which doesn't appear in his report, was "quick info" provided by an assistant to answer a question at the news conference and that the report is "definitely accurate."
According to the report, the annual number of apprehensions of unaccompanied children varied between about 39,000 and 69,000 between 2013 and 2018.
About 69,550 children have been referred to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program during fiscal year 2019, according to Department of Health and Human Services statistics.
"So perhaps it's really down now to 69,000. That's fine - but again, it's much higher than other states that detain children in migration-related detention," Nowak told NPR. "So it's still the highest number. So I think the main message remains the same."
That message during the news conference included that separating migrant children from parents "is something that definitely should not happen again."
During the news conference, Nowak added that the criminal incarceration rate of children in the United States is also very high.
"It's about 60 [children] out of 100,000," he said. "That is the highest that we could find, followed by others like Bolivia, or Bostwana or Sri Lanka."
The U.N. report coincides with the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Child -- which says child detentions should generally be avoided, used only as a last resort and then only if absolutely necessary "for the shortest possible period of time."