Child born in hostel for asylum seekers placed in State care for her own safety

Catalogue of abuse and neglect of children detailed in new report on childcare cases

Dr Carol Coulter, the director the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which was established last year to examine and report on childcare proceedings. Photograph: Alan Betson

A judge expressed criticism of accommodation for asylum seekers after he ordered that an eight-year-old girl – who was born in the direct provision system – be placed in State care for her own safety.

The court heard the child’s mother, who had developed mental health problems, was unable to meet the needs of her daughter. In making the order, the judge said the length of time the child had spent in the direct provision system “seemed inappropriate” and suggested it could be reviewed by an outside authority such as the ombudsman.

The judge also commented that the Child Care Act – which provides for children to be taken into care on an emergency basis – applies to children in asylum accommodation, "even if there is a deficit of care that results from the child being in direct provision". The case is among more than 30 published today as part of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which was established last year to examine and report on childcare proceedings, which are typically held in private.

This is the third volume of cases to be published and includes instances where the HSE brought proceedings because of risks posed to children due to their parents' abuse of alcohol or drugs or mental health problems. Directed by Dr Carol Coulter, the independent project receives philanthropic funding from Atlantic Philanthropies, the One Foundation and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

When the case of the eight-year-old asylum seeker returned to court a few months later, the HSE said she had been placed in foster care locally and reunited with her mother on a phased basis. The court heard the mother had made significant strides in her recovery after engaging with psychiatric services.


In a separate case, a judge refused an emergency care order from the HSE for an African child who had come to Ireland seeking reunification with an asylum seeker who she claimed was her father. The child was one of five children who were seeking reunification. The eldest claimed to be the asylum seeker's niece, while the remaining four said the man was their father.

DNA tests confirmed the relationship of all but one of the children. The expert witness said that while the child was not the man's daughter, there was a possibility they were related.

On foot of this, the HSE sought an emergency care order. The asylum seeker, however, maintained the child was his daughter, adding: “God says she is my daughter, I love my daughter so much and she loves me.” The judge refused the HSE’s application for a care order on the basis there was no immediate risk to the safety and welfare of the children. “The HSE could not show why the respondent was any more of a risk to that child than the other four children they were going to give to him,” he added.

In another case involving an asylum seeker, a mother residing in a direct provision centre refused to accept a care order allowing her children to be returned to her. The children had been in the care of the State for five nights during a period of incarceration of the mother. She had been arrested at her home prior to being placed in prison, as the State had been seeking to deport her. The woman had subsequently been released and was living in a direct provision centre, where she said she had concerns for her children’s safety. The care order was discharged and the children were returned to their mother.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent