Unescorted minors in care of HSE still missing

THREE UNACCOMPANIED minors who went missing last year while in the care of the HSE have still to be traced.
Unaccompanied minors are children who come into Ireland without their parents or legal guardians.
The HSE says it takes every incident of missing children extremely seriously, but that the issue of separated children who go missing from care is complex and has, at times, been simplified or sensationalised. "There has been a tendency to equate all missing children with trafficked children and this to date is unsubstantiated," a spokeswoman said.

She added that a pattern had emerged in recent years relating to children who went missing from care, who were almost exclusively made up of Chinese nationals.
The numbers tended to increase in the Christmas season and there was "substantial operational experience" to indicate that some of these individuals may be adults who have disappeared before their true age could be assessed.
However, Nusha Yonkova, anti-trafficking co-ordinator with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said it was "unhelpful to try and spin the public opinion into believing" that the HSE was primarily dealing with adult fraudsters who present as children.
"I agree, it is inaccurate to describe all separated children as trafficked children, yet we have enough cases of trafficked children to keep ourselves highly alert and highly concerned. In 2010 alone, we had 15 cases of children trafficked for sexual exploitation.
"How many children would be enough to say that we have a problem with trafficking in minors for sexual exploitation? These are children who have been repeatedly raped and sexually tormented in our country. I find it hard to believe the HSE chooses to downplay this fact and highlights the age issue instead."
She said the group acknowledges there had been an improvement in the response to such children in recent years, but the lack of personal guardians appointed to such children remained a "major shortcoming".
Between 2000 and 2010, 512 unaccompanied children seeking asylum went missing from State care. Seventy-two of these have been found.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Children said social workers and other statutory agencies had outlined factors that might contribute to the disappearance of a separated child, seeking asylum, from care. These include:
The child's appeal for asylum has been refused and he/she is nearing 18 and is reacting to the pending threat of deportation;
The person has been smuggled in to join the workforce on a consensual basis and is using the child protection service as a fast track into the State.The child has been brought here by traffickers using the child protection service as an easy route.irishtimes.com


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