UK’s Theresa May comes out against US child separation policy

Leader of top US ally tells MPs that images of detained children are ‘deeply disturbing’ and ‘wrong’.

Britain''s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London
May has been under pressure from opposition MPs to condemn the policy [File:Toby Melville/Reuters]

British Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken out against the US policy of separating migrant children from their parents in a rare rebuke of her country’s biggest ally.

The Conservative Party leader told parliament that the images of children in cages were disturbing and that the UK did not approve of separating migrant families.

“The pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing. This is wrong, this is not something that we agree with, this is not the United Kingdom’s approach,” May told parliament.  

May had come under pressure from opposition MPs for her perceived silence in response to reports coming out of the US.

Over the past two weeks, reports have emerged of US border guards forcibly removing children from their parents after they crossed the US-Mexico border.

The leader of the opposition, the Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn, condemned the US policy as “immoral”.

“It’s tragic and shocking to see innocent children caged like animals at US migrant camps and to hear their cries of anguish after being forcibly separated from their parents,” he wrote on Twitter, adding: “It’s immoral and goes against fundamental human rights we must always respect, no matter the situation.”

May’s comments came after France slammed the policy of separating children from their parents.

“We do not share the same model of civilisation, clearly we don’t share certain values,” government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux told French television.

Trump has shown little sign of a change of direction despite both international and domestic criticism.

On Tuesday, he doubled down on his position in a series of posts on Twitter.

“Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country,” he wrote.

‘Zero tolerance’

In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” approach towards migrants and refugees who cross the US southern border without documents, promising to prosecute those who did so.

Part of that approach has been separating children from their parents who are detained.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesman told reporters last week that 1,995 children had been separated from 1,940 adults who crossed the US border without documents between April 19 and May 31.

President Trump campaigned on a platform of cutting off the flow of immigrants entering the US through Mexico and repeatedly characterised those coming through as potential rapists and criminals.

A Honduran girl and her mother are taken into custody near the US-Mexico border on June 12 [John Moore/AFP]
A Honduran girl and her mother are taken into custody near the US-Mexico border on June 12 [John Moore/AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies