Law Centre (NI)'s Anti-Trafficking Young People Project was pleased to contribute to BBC NI’s Spotlight programme which highlighted that eight separated children went missing in Northern Ireland since 2005.
A separated child is a child who had come to Northern Ireland without a parent or legal guardian.
Law Centre (NI) understands that the Health Board has taken measures to ensure that unaccompanied children subject to immigration control are now better protected. However, the Law Centre believes that all separated children should have access to independent legal guardians and calls on the Department for Health to put this in place urgently.
Law Centre (NI) head of policy Ursula O’Hare said:
“One child going missing is one too many. While Independent Guardianship cannot offer a guarantee against children going missing, we believe guardians will go towards minimising the risk of this happening”
Independent Guardianship is a ground breaking provision of the anti-trafficking legislation, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. Unfortunately, this provision has not yet been implemented.
Ursula O’Hare continued:
“We owe it to these extremely vulnerable children to ensure that Northern Ireland’s laws do not just sit on the statute books but are instead implemented and made a reality”.
The Law Centre (NI) call also chimes with findings and recommendations in LCN's own report on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children which, among other things, points to independent guardians - already available in Scotland - as a good example for other UK countries to follow.
>>> Find out more:
See the Law Centre's briefing on protection for separated children subject to immigration control (note: this background briefing predates the 2015 Act).
Read a statement by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.
Read an Irish Legal News article about the issue.