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    Statue of Liberty detained in a cage in front of U.S. Embassy

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Amnesty International activists on Thursday symbolically placed the U.S. Statute of Liberty in a cage outside the U.S. Embassy in Brussels to protest against the detention of asylum seekers and the separation of families by U.S. authorities. Recordings of the cries of migrant children separated from their parents were aired during the protest.

    “After the Embassy refused to meet us and even to receive the signatures of our petitions, we had no choice but to resort to loud-speakers and a dramatic production,” explained Philippe Hensman, head of Amnesty’s chapter for French-speaking Belgium.

    “Wrenching children from their parents’ or guardian’s arms for asking for protection is a flagrant violation of human rights and so is the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers,” Hensman said. “We urge the American authorities to finally put policies in place to treat migrants and their families with dignity, equity and respect.”

    Although U.S. President Donald Trump signed a decree in June 2018 under which children are not supposed to be separated from their parents, Amnesty International notes that the practice has continued, pending the processing of asylum requests. Moreover, the human rights NGO notes, no measure has been taken to reunite families separated before the decree was signed.

    The rights activists highlighted the case of Valquiria, a Brazilian mother kept in detention and unjustly separated from her son for over a year now whereas she has requested international protection. Valquiria and her seven-year-old son fled Brazil after receiving death threats from drug traffickers. They were detained without justification after filing an asylum application in El Paso, Texas, before being forcibly separated without any explanation on the following day.

    On 10 September 2018, Valquiria’s asylum request was rejected, while her appeal was denied in March 2019. Still in prison, she recently filed another appeal.

    Amnesty has collected 35.000 signatures through two petitions for Valquiria and all asylum seekers who have been detained and separated from their families by the U.S. authorities.

    Christopher Vincent
    The Brussels Times