The top U.N. human rights official called on the Trump administration on Monday to halt its "unconscionable" policy of forcibly separating children from migrant parents irregularly entering the country via Mexico.
U.S. officials said Friday that nearly 2,000 children were separated from adults at the border between mid-April and the end of May as the Trump administration implements stricter border enforcement policies.
Administration officials say the tactic is necessary to secure the border and suggest it will act as a deterrent to illegal immigration.
But Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the policies "punish children for their parents' actions".
"The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable. I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children," Zeid said in his final speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council before his term in office ends.
Reuters quoted activists and diplomats on Thursday as saying that talks with the United States over how to reform the main U.N. rights body have failed to meet Washington's demands, especially over its treatment of Israel, suggesting that the Trump administration will quit the forum.