Number of missing migrant children up
The Irish Times
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
FIVE MIGRANT children have gone missing each month this year, twice as many as for all of last year, the Dil has heard.
Fine Gael spokesman on migration Denis Naughten sharply criticised Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews who he said had told the Dil in February that 24-hour care was being provided to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the State. But the report of the Childrens Ombudsman had shown that security guards provide care after 6pm.
Mr Andrews said it was of serious concern the figure had increased in 2009 after a very low figure of 22 in 2008. Figures for missing migrant children who enter the State unaccompanied, showed that 32 went missing in 2007, from the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE), 22 disappeared in 2008 and up to October this year 45 had gone missing.
To prevent this happening, we need to bring children seeking asylum into a position of equality with children in residential or foster care so that they are provided with the same services and the accommodation is properly registered and inspected. This has not been the case until now, said the Minister.
He hoped to phase out the four hostels that remain providing services to children by December 2010 and the move to foster care should help to ensure that fewer children go missing.
He said that children go missing very soon after coming to the attention of State agencies. He said that if they were in inappropriate accommodation it was certain that inappropriate service will be provided.
Mr Naughten claimed that the Minister clapped himself on the back because the number of missing children was reduced last year, a claim Mr Andrews sharply rejected. Mr Naughten said, however, that the Minister took credit in the House for the fact that only 22 children had gone missing last year. Two in every five children placed in care this year have disappeared from accommodation. Will you take responsibility for that? he asked Mr Andrews.
Mr Naughten also objected to HSE proposals to put new accommodation alongside existing asylum centres which were a focal point for traffickers.
Rejecting the assertion that he had clapped himself on the back, the Minister pointed out that he had only been Minister of State for half of last year. I fail to see how I could be credited with positive development that occurred in the previous year. He added that a process was in place to ensure the closure of hostels by the end of 2010 is done with the best interests of children at heart.