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
    week.

    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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