GENEVA, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- A UN expert on Monday expressed his deep concern about the death of a seven-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl while she was in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities.
Emphasizing that the U.S. should stop the detention of children, either unaccompanied or with their families, based on their migratory status, and seek alternatives to detention, Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, also called for a thorough investigation into how the girl died.
He said on Monday in a media statement that "the U.S. authorities must ensure that an in-depth, independent investigation of the death of Jakelin Ameí Caal is conducted."
According to the UN expert, although there have been different versions on the sequence of events and the health status of the girl, it is not disputed that the girl died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States with her father and a larger group of migrants.
"Access to justice for her relatives should be granted, including but not limited to having legal representation in the proceedings in a language they understand well," he added.
The UN expert also urged the U.S. government to address failings within the immigration system, and specifically within the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency, to prevent similar situations.
"As repeatedly stated by a series of UN human rights bodies, detention of children based on their migratory status is a violation of international law," said González Morales.
The U.S. authorities' treatment of migrants, as well as the public discourse about immigration in the U.S., is also of great concern to the UN expert, who had contacted the U.S. authorities several times recently to raise a range of issues and is hoping to engage in a constructive dialogue to address this.
According to the UN expert, he had already requested twice an invitation from the U.S. government without a response so far.
"Conducting an official visit to the country would allow me to get first-hand, direct information about the situation of migrant children, especially on those who are being held in detention," the expert said.
A professor of international law at the Diego Portales University in Santiago of Chile, Felipe González Morales was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years.