Written answers

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Department of Justice and Equality

Missing Children

Photo of Ciara ConwayCiara Conway (Waterford, Labour)
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125. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of minors that have been reported missing that were engaged in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service process nationally in 2011, 2012; and to date in 2013; the number that were found and re-entered the system; the age profile and country of origin of each of these children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47227/13]

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy should be aware that the 2004 Immigration Act does not require persons under the age of 16 to register their presence in the State with the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Therefore, minors under the age of 16 do not in their own right engage directly with the immigration authorities. Children in care in the State are the responsibility of the HSE who liaise with the Garda authorities in the event that a child goes missing.

The HSE also has primary responsibility under the Child Care Act, 1991 for the care of separated or unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the State. In that regard, any persons deemed to be unaccompanied minors by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) are referred to the HSE under Section 8 of the Refugee Act, 1996.

On referral by the ORAC, the HSE determines whether it is in the child's interest to have an application for asylum made on their behalf. In the event that an application is made, I am advised that the HSE then assists the minor throughout the asylum process, including accompanying the minor during the course of their asylum interview.

I am also advised that the HSE takes all necessary steps to ensure the safety and welfare of these young people. Children who are unaccompanied and are seeking asylum are received into the care of the HSE under the Child Care Act 1991. They are allocated a social worker, their needs are assessed and a Care Plan is developed. These children are generally placed in a foster care family placement, although some older children are placed in regulated residential facilities that cater for small numbers. Younger children are, as a matter of policy, placed with families. The overall numbers of unaccompanied children seeking asylum has decreased significantly in recent years. There were 26 such applications in 2011, 23 in 2012 and 15 in 2013 (to end September).

In relation to unaccompanied asylum seekers who are reported to be missing, I can advise the Deputy that my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs who has overall responsibility in this area. However, for the sake of completeness, figures made available to my Department by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs indicate that in 2011 8 unaccompanied minors were declared missing whereas 5 were declared missing in 2012. The corresponding figures for those found or accounted for over the same period were 2 and 3 respectively. Any further detail or information required should be sought from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

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