Response to HSE statement that no missing child from HSE care has been trafficked

Published date: 
1 Feb 2010

Monday 1 February 2010

Response to HSE statement that no missing child  from HSE care has been trafficked

By Jillian van Turnhout, Children’s Rights Alliance

Responding to an article in today’s edition of The Irish Times (‘500 children seeking asylum went missing from care in decade’), the Children’s Rights Alliance would like to refute the reported statement from a HSE spokesperson that ‘it has been unsubstantiated that any of the children who go missing from HSE care have been trafficked’.  Unfortunately, it is a matter of public record that children, who have disappeared from HSE care, have subsequently been ‘found’ in situations where they were being exploited by traffickers.  It is vital that the HSE publicly acknowledges the reality of child trafficking in Ireland, so that they can address this serious violation of children’s rights.

The Alliance has collated a list of over 25 cases of confirmed child trafficking for the purposes of sexual or labour exploitation, including forced marriage (compiled using media reports and information provided by non-governmental organisations).  The clandestine nature of the crime, in addition to child protection issues, means that it is likely that there have been significantly more cases of child trafficking than has been identified and put into the public domain.

In five of these cases, listed below, children have gone missing from HSE care and been exploited by child traffickers.

  1. A 17-year-old Nigerian girl was placed into the care of the HSE after arriving in Ireland unaccompanied.  She ran away shortly after being placed in care and six months later was found working in the sex industry in Sligo.  Gardaí found the girl after they raided premises in Sligo Town, which they suspected was a brothel run by foreign nationals.  The previous year, a 17-year-old African girl was found to be working as a prostitute in Sligo Town.  The Gardai subsequently discovered that this African child was trafficked into Ireland by an organised prostitution ring.
  2. An underage female from Nigeria was found by Gardaí in a brothel in Kilkenny and was identified as a suspected victim of trafficking.  She was taken into HSE care.  She was charged at Carlow District Court with failing to produce identity papers.  Her case was originally heard in early July 2008 and she was remanded on continuing bail to appear again on 9 September 2008.  She was placed in HSE care but failed to show up for her court appearance and was reported missing.  Her whereabouts are unknown.
  3. A 16-year-old female from Nigeria who arrived as a separated child was enticed out of a HSE residential care for separated children by a man who later got her involved in prostitution.
  4. A 10-year-old Romanian Roma girl was taken into State care by the Gardaí under an Emergency Care Order.  She went missing from her Dublin HSE care placement less than a week later.  The 10-year-old was suspected to have been subject to an arranged marriage to an 18-year-old.  The teenager concerned was also missing.
  5. A 16-year-old female from Liberia was living in a HSE hostel for separated children in Dublin in 2003.  She was reportedly picked up from her HSE Dublin care placement by traffickers and transported to Cork.  In Cork, she was put on a plane destined for abroad.  Her journey was intercepted by the Irish authorities and she was placed in a Limerick prison.

Child trafficking is an illegal criminal activity.  It is a gross exploitation of children that breaches their fundamental human rights and may involve rape of a child, slavery, forced labour and psychological abuse.  Separated children in the care of the HSE are at high risk of being exploited by traffickers.  The Alliance believes that the HSE has breached its statutory duty towards these children by providing them with substandard care in hostels.  The inadequate quality of hostel care and accommodation has been directly linked to instances of vulnerable children going missing and being trafficked for exploitation.  Furthermore, the HSE does not have a plan to provide a child identified as a suspected victim of trafficking with adequate care and accommodation to meet their need for safety and security.  
The Alliance welcomes the commitment in the Ryan Report Implementation Plan to provide equity of care to separated children, by ending the use of hostels.  The Alliance will be monitoring the HSE closely over the coming year to ensure that it fulfills its equity of care policy fully.

Jillian van Turnhout
Chief Executive

Notes to Editor:

1.The above statement can be used verbatim.

  • Case-study 3:  Immigrant Council of Ireland (2009) Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: The Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland, p.66;
  • Case-study 4: Nuala Haughey, The Irish Times, 05.04.03 ‘Gardaí remove girl (10) in inquiry into suspected arranged marriage’; 
  • Case-study 5: Communication from refugee support group to the Children’s Rights Alliance 24.04.09.

2. Over the past number of years, the Alliance has consistently raised at ministerial level our serious concerns about the level of care and accommodation being provided to separated children and the alarmingly high number of children going missing.  It has also campaigned for reform in coalition with other NGOs through ‘Action for Separated Children in Ireland’

3. Separated children are defined as children under 18 years of age who are outside their country of origin and separated from both parents or from their previous legal/customary primary caregiver.  (Source: Separated Children in Europe’s Programme (2004) Statement of Good Practice, p. 2.).


Children's Rights Alliance