Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
Question 621: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which she and her Department have identified locations for potential trafficking in children or young adults with particular reference to the need to prevent the activities of organised criminals in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8397/12]
Question 622: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which she and or her Department have identified situations likely to allow trafficking in children or young adults; her plans to address any issues arising from evidence available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8398/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 621 and 622 together.
I do not have responsibility for offences relating to the trafficking of children. Under the Child Care Act, 1991, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for the care and protection of separated children seeking asylum until they reach 18 years of age. Their immediate and ongoing needs as well as their application for refugee status are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) and the Child Care Act, 1991. Where children are identified by An Garda Síochána, at the point of entry, their circumstances are investigated and if there are any concerns about the welfare of the child, they are placed into the care of the HSE. These children are particularly vulnerable and in need of care and protection.
The HSE is aware of concerns that separated children seeking asylum who go missing from care may be at risk of being trafficked. The HSE and the Garda National Immigrant Bureau have worked closely since 2008 in this regard and have a Joint National Protocol on Children who go missing from care, and have held meetings between their respective management to identify risk, share information and work cooperatively in respect to this group of children. The parties to the meetings included Local Garda Inspectors, GMIB Inspectors, Social Workers engaged in after hours and separated children seeking asylum teams.
The steps taken to address risk issues in relation to separated children include
· Collaborative interviewing at points of entry between the Garda and social workers
· Planned surveillance of those at risk of going missing from the point of entry to the initial period in placement
and a range of other activities undertaken by An Garda Síochána.
The revised Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children deals with the recognition, reporting and management of child safety concerns. It emphasises the need to safeguard and to protect children, particularly vulnerable children. It specifically highlights the roles and responsibilities of the HSE and An Garda Síochána, as the two agencies with statutory responsibility for child protection and forms an integral part of their existing operations and practice. Where the HSE has identified a concern regarding child trafficking, this is referred to the Gardaí and the two statutory organisations work closely together to ensure the safety of the child. HSE management and staff have been closely involved in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Equality in the development of the National Action Plan on Anti-Human Trafficking and every effort is being made to fulfil commitment to combat trafficking as outlined in this Plan.