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Garda operation ‘under review’ as 62 migrant children missing after disappearing from State care

Noteworthy reported yesterday that 62 asylum-seeking children have disappeared from state care after arriving in Ireland alone.

By Press Association

MINISTER FOR CHILDREN Roderic O’Gorman has said the Garda operation focusing on missing children is being reviewed, after it was reported that 62 asylum-seeking children have disappeared from state care after arriving in Ireland alone.

Asked about the figures revealed in an investigation published by Noteworthy yesterday, O’Gorman said the child and family agency Tusla is “immediately informed” when children under the age of 18 enter the state unaccompanied.

He said often children “just transiting through the state” are included in the figures.

O’Gorman said: “But that’s not to suggest for a moment that any child who has been in the care of the state and (is) subsequently missing … that’s not an issue of real concern.

“There is a clear programme in place where a child in care is missing. It involves Tusla, An Garda Síochána, an investigation.

“The vast majority of children who go missing in care are found very quickly. A significant number of children do go missing every year and (are) found very quickly.

But there are instances where children aren’t found. In terms of the Garda operation, we’re examining that to ensure is there any way that that can be strengthened.

Noteworthy reported that of the dozens of separated migrant minors who have vanished from Tusla accommodation since 2017, 44 are no longer being searched for by the child welfare agency – because they reached their 18th birthday while missing.

The investigation uncovered that, in many cases, no public appeals for the missing children were made by An Garda Síochána.

Speaking to reporters, O’Gorman said he had taken a number of steps in terms of children missing from care:

“Over the course of the last year we’ve seen a very significant increase in the number of people arriving seeking international protection fleeing the war in Ukraine and that’s included an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the country.”

The Minister said he had engaged with Kate Duggan, the chief executive of child and family agency Tusla, as well as the National Child Safeguarding Strategic Liaison committee, which works with An Garda Síochána.

He said Tusla has commissioned the Children’s Rights Alliance to work with other NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to create a report on the challenges facing children in care, with publication due in January.

“Most importantly, Operation Cosnaim is the operation An Garda Síochána is operating in terms of protecting children from a risk of trafficking, and following my engagement with An Garda Síochána, that operation is currently being reviewed in terms of all the steps that can be taken to to see how An Garda Síochána is most effectively responding to situations where children are missing.

“One key change that has been brought in immediately is now whenever a child under the age of 18 is missing from care, there is an immediate case conference between An Garda Siochana, Tusla and other relevant agencies as well”.

He said the review of Operation Cosnaim will be “coming out early next year”.

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