Concern deepens over Ireland’s missing asylum-seeking children

At least 64 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children went missing from
the Health Service Executive’s care in the Republic of Ireland in
2004 – 51 of whom are still yet to be found, it was revealed this

Sixty-two of the children were cared for by the HSE’s east coast
area, where 50 are still missing. Two disappeared from the southern
area’s care, one of whom has yet to be found.

Cabrini Gibbons, a legal officer at the Irish Refugee Council,
accused the Garda of making less effort to raise public awareness
when an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child went missing than when
an Irish child disappeared.

Gibbons warned that some of the missing children could be working
illegally in the Republic and that others could be at risk of
sexual exploitation.

Alan Corbett, national clinical director at children’s charity
Children at Risk in Ireland, added that some of the missing
children may have been sexually abused in their home countries,
making them more likely to be abused again.

A spokesperson for the Garda denied that missing Irish children
were considered more important, arguing that whether the child was
an asylum seeker or Irish made no difference to the amount of
publicity they would try to generate.

However, the spokesperson added that families of unaccompanied
asylum seeker children were more likely not to want any publicity
than Irish families.

He insisted there was regular communication between the HSE areas
and the Garda once a case of a missing asylum-seeking child had
been referred to them.

But, while a spokesperson for the HSE east coast area agreed, an
HSE southern area spokesperson admitted this contact was “not
regular enough”.

Corbett said he was “tremendously concerned” about the lack of
resources for services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in
the Republic.

A spokesperson for the east coast area, one of Ireland’s 11 HSE
areas, said that it was in negotiations with the Department of
Health and Children for additional resources for working with
unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

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