Trafficked children are still at risk, report shows

Some children who were trafficked into and within the country may still be in vulnerable situations due to a lack of follow-up monitoring, according to a new report.

The report, carried out by researchers at University College Cork for the Children’s Rights Alliance (CRA), said there is a "lack of clarity" between the Separated Children Seeking Asylum (SCSA) team in Dublin and social workers in HSE local offices around the country. 

The HSE admitted that there was "initial reluctance" from some social work teams to accept transferred cases. This is due to a lack of training, preparation and services in the locality. 

Most recent figures from the Department of Justice’s anti-trafficking unit show gardaí dealt with 53 cases of alleged human trafficking last year, involving 57 people. Six were Irish minors trafficked within the State for sexual exploitation. 

The new report, to be launched today, delves deeper into figures from the 2010 report of the anti-trafficking unit but also speaks with others charged with dealing with children who are trafficked. 

It stresses the need for follow-up monitoring of family reunification cases, amid worries that some vulnerable children — particularly separated and unaccompanied minors from overseas — could be placed with extended family members who may have trafficked them in the first place. 

According to the report, there is a need for "standardised, clear statistical data on referrals of trafficked children to the HSE and the outcomes for those children". 

The report also calls for a "child-centred approach to trafficking", including the exacting of provisions in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010, particularly the identification of adults accompanying children. 

The report recommends that all care providers of separated and trafficked children should be subject to inspection by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa). 

It also calls for training to be provided to ensure trafficking victims can be identified and cared for, but also raises concerns over current practices. 

"The lack of follow up on children after family reunification can place separated migrant children at risk of trafficking and exploitation," it states, adding that DNA tests in all family reunification cases, carried out by the HSE, is welcome but "fails to fully recognise... such close blood ties are not the only key characteristic of kinship connections". 

The report also recommends that temporary residency should automatically be provided in law for children who have been trafficked and that the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Pornography and Child Prostitution be ratified immediately by the Government. 

Ireland and the Czech Republic are the only two EU countries not to have ratified it and the CRA said: "Ratification would send a clear message nationally and internationally that Ireland does not tolerate child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography." 

The report was carried out by the child migration and social policy research group in UCC’s school of applied sciences.

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