New Report Highlights the Challenge of Child Trafficking in Ireland

Published date: 
13 Sep 2012

A new report commissioned by the Children’s Rights Alliance, and conducted by University College Cork (UCC), comprehensively examines the State’s response to the problem of child trafficking in Ireland.  Child trafficking involves the movement of children, often through deception and coercion, for the purposes of exploitation. Critical findings emerging from Safe Care for Trafficked Children in Ireland: Developing a Protective Environment include:

  • Before 2010 a significant number of separated children in the asylum process disappeared, and may have been victims of trafficking because they were living in hostel type accommodation.
  • A HSE decision to place separated children in foster care arrangements has significantly reduced the number of children going missing and the risk of trafficking.
  • Professionals find it difficult to identify and document the number of trafficked children because of the illegal and clandestine nature of the practice.
  • Child trafficking is not just confined to migrant children. Irish children have been trafficked within the country for exploitive and criminal purposes.  
  • Gaps in HSE policy and practice may have been exploited by traffickers who are moving children for criminal reasons.
  • Some children have come into the State unaccompanied and have been unified with migrant families in Ireland. However, on the whole, the HSE has not followed up on these unifications and some research respondents were concerned that the family placement was not genuine.
  • Despite significant expertise in Dublin, lack of training for professionals and carers outside the capital has hampered their ability to spot signs of child trafficking.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, says:  “There is much work to be done if we are to truly tackle child trafficking head-on.  With numbers of Irish children trafficked within the country growing, and child trafficking cases found in Sligo, Kilkenny and Wexford, this is not only a problem for Dublin.  While the Government’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit is leading the way in targeting  child trafficking, we must make sure that we don’t become a ‘soft touch’ for child traffickers who prey on vulnerable children.”

According to Peter Macdonald, Managing Director of The Body Shop Ireland, who worked in partnership with ECPAT International on their global campaign to Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People (and raised funds for the Report) said: “The world is waking up to the need for more investment in child protection.  We welcome the actions of the Irish government and we will be watching, as the world will be watching, for their implementation.”

Dr Deirdre Horgan, one of the Report’s authors, said: “NGOs have been very active in terms of advocacy and awareness-raising on this issue.  But we need a robust legislative, policy and practice framework to respond to this complex and challenging issue.  Given that placements for trafficked children or those at risk of trafficking are specialised care placements they require comprehensive vetting, training in the specific needs of trafficked children and ongoing supports for the foster carers and children.”

Tanya Ward, Alliance Chief Executive, continues: “Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography on 7 September 2000.  However, 12 years on, Ireland has not ratified it.  Today, Ireland and the Czech Republic are in an embarrassing minority of two European Union member states.  Ratification is important for a number of reasons.  It would bring Ireland into line with the rest of Europe and the world, and would send a clear and strong message that Ireland does not tolerate the sale of children, child prostitution or child pornography.  


For more information, please call:
Carys Thomas, Communications and Public Affairs Director
Tel: 01 662 9400
Mobile: 087 770 2845

Notes for Editors

  1. The Stop Sex Trafficking of Children & Young People campaign launched across the world in August 2009 and organised by The Body Shop Ireland, ECPAT International.  The Children’s Rights Alliance was the Irish partner for this global campaign.  In Ireland, 165,000 signatures of support were gathered in a public petition presented to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, in 2011.  An incredible €53,000 was raised in Ireland to fund three support and research activities, of which this research report is one.
  2. Figures from the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Department of Justice and Equality show an increase in the number of Irish minors trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation: Of the alleged victims of sex trafficking who were minors in 2010, three of these were from Ireland, while in 2011 six Irish minors were allegedly trafficked within the State for sexual exploitation.
  3. Child Trafficking is defined as a child who has been trafficked if he or she has been moved within a country, or across borders, whether by force or not, for the purpose of exploiting the child.
  4. The US Trafficking in Persons Report (2011) found that Ireland is a destination, source and transit country for children subjected to sex trafficking.  
  5. Over 500 children in the care of the State have gone missing since 2000 – a shocking 90% remain missing, and it is feared that many may have been trafficked.  
  6. Cases of child trafficking have been discovered in many parts of Ireland, including Dublin, Sligo, Kilkenny and Wexford.  
  7. 1.2 million children are estimated to be trafficked globally each year; human trafficking is the third most profitable criminal activity in the world.
  8. Trafficking is a hidden crime, making it difficult to convict offenders.  There is limited data on the numbers of cases of child trafficking and this is partly due to the hidden and clandestine nature of this crime.  
  9. Four out of five trafficked children are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Children's Rights Alliance