Child trafficking 'on the increase'

The number of Irish children falling victim to child trafficking within the country is growing, a new report has found.

Experts have warned the sale and exploitation of minors is not confined to migrant children and called for the Government to step up efforts to tackle the crime.

The Children’s Rights Alliance (CRA) will launch its latest study on the state’s response to child trafficking today.

Chief executive Tanya Ward warned the findings revealed that much work is yet to be done in fighting the crime.

“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,” said Ms Ward.

“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.”

The study, carried out by University College Cork on behalf of the CRA, also found that traffickers may have exploited gaps in Health Service Executive (HSE) policy and practice to commit the crime.

According to CRA, Ireland is one of just two European Union states, along with the Czech Republic, languishing behind its neighbours in its efforts to fight child trafficking.

Ms Ward said while the country signed a UN Convention treaty on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography 12 years ago, it has not yet ratified it.

“Ratification is important for a number of reasons,” she added.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Deirdre Horgan, one of the report’s authors, said Ireland needs robust legislative, policy and practice framework to respond to the 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,” she added.

The report – called Safe Care for Trafficked Children in Ireland: Developing a Protective Environment – also found that before 2010, a significant number of children separated from their parents during the asylum process and living in hostel-type accommodation, fell victim to trafficking.

But, a HSE decision to place separated children in foster care helped reduce the number of migrant children going missing and the risk of them being trafficked.

The authors of the report also pointed out a lack of training for professionals and carers outside of Dublin hampered their ability to spot signs of the crime.
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