Angui Funes, right, sits with her brother Jesus after crossing the border back to Reynosa, Mexico on Thursday. Their family, who were seeking asylum in the US, said they were told by officials they would be separated so they returned to Mexico.

The UN has called on the Trump administration to overhaul its migration policies and find alternatives to detention, saying that migrant children and their parents should not be treated like criminals.
The US has faced fierce criticism for separating more than 2300 children from their families in order to prosecute their parents for crossing the border from Mexico illegally.

President Donald Trump backed down on Wednesday, signing an executive order to keep families together in detention during immigration proceedings.

“While we acknowledge the US government’s decision not to continue separating children from their parents, we understand the practice now will be to detain the children with their parents,” UN human rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing.

“We have said time and again the children should never be detained in relation to their or their parents’ migration status. It is never in the best interests of the child for them to be detained.”

Video footage of children sitting in cages and an audiotape of wailing children sparked worldwide anger.

Trump suggested on Friday that some of the wrenching tales that have emerged from the border were fabricated by Democrats before congressional elections in November.

“We cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections,” he tweeted.

The US military has been asked to get ready to house up to 20000 immigrant children, US officials said on Thursday.

Shamdasani, asked about the prospect of using military bases, replied: “Irregular migration should not be a criminal offence, these people should not be treated as criminals.”

The UN Children’s Fund also said it opposed detention of children and separation of families, while backing alternatives to custody.

“We believe there are 100 countries that detain children for migration control,” spokesman Christophe Boulierac said, adding that the agency was working with governments to change their practices.

“You can have people who guarantee that the child will appear in the immigration courts,” he said. - Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)