More than three quarters of children living in state institutions in Serbia are children with disabilities, according to the latest United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.
At 77 per cent, Serbia ranks joint third with Hungary behind Turkmenistan and China in a total of 57 countries analysed.
Of Serbia’s Balkan peers included in the list, Bosnia is at 58.1 per cent, North Macedonia at 35.4 per cent, Albania at 25.5 per cent, Croatia at 23.8 per cent and Bulgaria at 10.2 per cent.
There were no figures for Kosovo or Montenegro.
Serbia has long faced criticism over the issue.
In June 2018, rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said it regretted “to see an increase in the number of children with disabilities placed in institutions in Serbia”.
“We call on the government to adopt a time-bound plan to move children and adults with disabilities out of institutions and to support them to live in the community,” the rights watchdog said in a press release.
In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, also expressed deep concern about the number of children living in institutions in Serbia, “especially those with intellectual disabilities”.
“The Committee is equally concerned that, despite the legal prohibition on placing infants under the age of three in institutions, infants with disabilities continue to be placed in institutions directly from maternity wards,” it warned.
Also in 2016, Human Rights Watch said children with disabilities “continue to be overrepresented in institutional settings”. According to the watchdog, in 2014, 79.9 per cent of children in institutions in Serbia were children with disabilities and most of these children had at least one living parent.
Monday’s report provided a range of data on children whose parents are in jail or who themselves are in prison, children detained in conditions of war or migration.
Among its key findings are that the United States has the world’s highest rate of children in detention, including more than 100,000 in immigration-related custody that violates international law, the report’s author, independent expert Manfred Nowak, said on Monday.
Worldwide, more than seven million people under the age of 18 are held in jails and police custody, including 330,000 in immigration detention centres, Nowak said.
The individual numbers for countries in the region are not listed.