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USA: for-profit company contributing to violation of children's rights at Florida detention centre - new report

In the 18 months to August 2019, the Homestead facility held more than 14,000 children © Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

New report reveals how Comprehensive Health Service has contributed to violations of rights of unaccompanied children held in indefinite detention at Homestead facility

‘Children should never be detained because of their immigration status’ - Denise Bell

Amnesty International USA has called on the contractor to the US Government - Comprehensive Health Service - to end its operations at the Homestead immigration detention centre in Florida. 

A new 22-page report - No Home for Children: End the Contract to Operate the Homestead ‘Temporary Emergency’ Facility - shows how Comprehensive Health Services is contributing to the US Government’s violation of the rights of unaccompanied children held in prolonged and indefinite detention at Homestead, a “temporary influx” facility in the Miami suburb city of Homestead.

Based on a detailed analysis of publicly-available information and two visits to Homestead, Amnesty’s report shows how Comprehensive Health Services is responsible for the day-to-day running of Homestead, providing vital services that have enabled the US authorities to detain children at the facility.

These services include the provision of education, case management, clinicians, medical care, educational services, legal services, and security and health services. 

Amnesty’s briefing also highlights how Comprehensive Health Services and the companies that own it have failed to meet their responsibility to respect human rights, including the rights of children at Homestead. This responsibility requires that companies avoid contributing to human rights abuses through their operations and activities. 

Comprehensive Health Services, which was established in 1975, is a subsidiary of US-based Caliburn International, LLC (Caliburn), and is wholly owned by US-based private equity firm DC Capital Partners, LLC (DC Capital). In 2018, Comprehensive Health Services was bought by DC Capital.

Comprehensive Health Services has operated and provided core services at Homestead over a number of years, although it would have been well aware of the risks of contributing to the prolonged and indefinite detention of children from its own operations at the facility and from publicly-available information. Amnesty has also concluded that DC Capital, Caliburn and Comprehensive Health Services did not take steps to identify and address the human rights risks of operating at Homestead and that, if they had taken these steps, they should have decided not to operate at there.

As of publication date, Comprehensive Health Services, Caliburn, and DC Capital have not responded to requests for comment on Amnesty’s findings. Amnesty continues to call on the US Government to close the Homestead facility permanently, to stop the use of temporary influx facilities such as Homestead, and to entirely end the detention of migrant children. Amnesty International USA is calling on Comprehensive Health Services to end its operations at Homestead and not to renew its contract.

Denise Bell, Amnesty International USA’s Researcher for Refugee and Migrant Rights, said: 

“Children should never be detained because of their immigration status.

“It is never in the best interests of the child to be detained and kept from families and sponsors waiting to welcome them. 

“If and when children are detained, it must be for the shortest time possible in the least restrictive setting. 

“A child is a child and children deserve to be free and with their families.”

Thousands of children have been held

In the 18 months to August, more than 14,300 children were held at Homestead. While Homestead is not currently detaining children, according to statements made by officials at the US Department of Health and Human Services, the facility remains open and retains the capacity to begin detaining children again in the event of anticipated increased referrals. Homestead’s detention of children could resume as early as next month, while the current contract with Comprehensive Health Services expires on 30 November. The Department of Health and Human Services has argued that retaining bed capacity is necessary to provide services to children.

In a report in July, Amnesty showed that, contrary to its legal obligations, the US was violating the rights of children by holding them at Homestead for longer than the 20-day limit under US legal standards, and in circumstances that amounted to indefinite detention. 

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