50,000 missing children reports investigated in past decade
Average of 18 reports on missing children filed in the State each day last year
An average of 18 reports on missing children were filed in the State each day last year, more than double the figure recorded 10 years earlier.
Garda statistics reveal that 51,193 reports on missing children have been investigated in the past decade, with 6,661 of them received last year, a 141 per cent increase on the total for 2003.
The figures show 207 children who were reported missing between 2003 and 2012 “remain untraced”, with the whereabouts of a further 174 adults who went missing in the same period also unknown.
The figures show 19,922 adults were reported missing in the 10-year period, with men accounting for just under two-thirds of the total.
Almost 27 per cent of the adults reported missing over the period were foreign nationals, who in 2005 accounted for more reports (850) than Irish nationals. The figure has fallen significantly since then and last year just 281 of the 2,093 adults missing were not Irish.
Garda sources say while it is impossible to determine where the untraced adults have gone, some are foreign nationals who have most likely left Ireland. Others, both Irish and foreign, have perhaps decided to leave their homes and deliberately have no contact with friends or family.
“Some of those missing have probably taken their own lives but their bodies have not been found and so if they were initially reported missing they would still be classed as missing,” said a Garda source.
The same source added some of the missing adults may have been murdered and their bodies disposed of but that such cases would be small in number.
Gardaí said many of the children reported missing would fall into the “tug of love” category. “You see more cases in the past few years, especially where men and women from different countries have kids and then separate – one might take off to their home country and take the kids without permission and so the other parent reports them missing.”
Gardaí believe other missing foreign children entered Ireland unaccompanied only to be taken into care and go “missing” from care after parents living here take them illegally. Sources acknowledge that some missing children may have been murdered or trafficked into the sex trade.
Girls were more likely to be reported missing than boys in the 10 years covered by the statistics, with girls accounting for 3,000 more reports than boys.
Categories of risk
Just under 12 per cent of those reported missing in the period were listed as non-Irish nationals with the numbers in this category rising sharply between 2003 and 2005 (from 581 to 912) before falling again in recent years.
Mr Shatter said all reports of persons going missing remain under investigation until the person is located.
Missing persons reports are divided into three categories of risk – high, medium and low.
High-risk cases relate to situations where immediate action is needed such as child abduction or the threat of suicide.
Medium-risk cases are those where a person may have disappeared of their own volition and low-risk cases are those when there is no apparent threat to the life of the missing person.