Over 400 children in State care missing


MORE THAN 400 children who arrived unaccompanied into the State over the past nine years remain unaccounted for, according to figures compiled by Fine Gael.

Party spokesman on immigration Denis Naughten said yesterday that 457 children have gone missing from State care. Of those, only 56 have been traced, leaving the fate of 401 unknown.

Mr Naughten described the figures as “shocking” and accused the Government of “gross dereliction of duty” in terms of its responsibilities to the children.

He said figures supplied by the Department of Health for 2008 showed that a total of 291 separated or unaccompanied children were referred to the HSE in the first 11 months of 2008, and 16 of those were deemed to be missing.According to Mr Naughten, it brought to 457 the total number missing since 2000.

“These children have evaporated into thin air. And because these children have no family in Ireland, it looks like nobody seems to care,” he said.

“The Government must end the practice of placing separated children who enter the State into hostels without proper care and supervision. Over 450 children have disappeared . . . and serious questions need to be asked.”

He contended that Ireland was now a major transit route for the trafficking of children into Britain, some of whom have been forced into prostitution.

The information was contained in a reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Mr Naughten.

The HSE noted in its response that the figures for 2008 showed a significant reduction in the numbers of children going missing.

“This has been assisted by revised procedures within the HSE as well as ongoing co-operation with the Garda and the Department of Justice.

“It is anticipated that as the model of care for these children changes, with a move towards the provision of a full residential place or equivalent for each child, that the incidences of children going missing will continue to drop,” it said.

However, Mr Naughten pointed to the current situation, in which the majority of children stay in hostels, where some were vulnerable to predatory adults.

He also said that the HSE believed that the majority of separated children coming into Ireland had been trafficked into the country. “The level of protection being provided for separated children in the Bill is simply not good enough,” he said. He argued that Ireland should adopt the model used by Swedish authorities, which ensured maximum protection for this vulnerable cohort.