Hundreds of children in the Philippines are being rounded up and kept in prisons in order to sanitize the capital city prior to a visit by Pope Francis.
Francis arrived in the Philippines on Thursday for a five-day tour, and is scheduled to be in Manila on Saturday. City officials have been working feverishly to keep the pope from encountering the city’s thousands of street children. To that end, the children are being “rescued” by police and placed in detention centers where conditions are often appalling, according to The Daily Mail‘s Simon Parry, who visited the detention centers in Manila.
“They have no basic rights. There is no education. There is no entertainment. There is no proper human development. There is nowhere to eat and they sleep on a concrete floor. There is no proper judicial process,” father Shay Cullen, a missionary and activist against the roundups, told the Daily Mail.
Harrowing pictures from the detention centers show children chained up and kept behind bars in unfurnished rooms. Sometimes, the children are exposed to populations of adult prisoners, with little done to protect them from abuse.While the children are supposed to be saved from a life on the streets, critics say in many cases the children are simply rounded up and then released repeatedly without any long-term plan to help them.
A Filipino official, meanwhile, told the Manila Standard that the roundups are intended to protect the pope from being exploited by “begging syndicates,” criminal networks that exploit and sometimes even kidnap children in order to use them as beggars.
“They know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that,” the official said.
The practice of rounding up children in the Philippines before major events apparently has a long history, and was also seen last year when President Obama went to the country.
“When we tried to have them released we were told they couldn’t come out until after Obama had gone and the children were very much given the impression that they were rescued because of this visit,” Catherine Scerri, deputy director of the charity Bahay Tuluyan, told the Daily Mail. Scerri said that “rescued” children are often picked up indiscriminately for offenses such as sleeping on the street or begging, and are placed in centers without receiving any due process.
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