Migrant children ‘vulnerable’ to trafficking and exploitation

A legal expert has warned that major loopholes that have still not been filled have left migrant children vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.

Patricia Brazil, a barrister, and Averil Deverell assistant professor in law at Trinity College Dublin, said that there had been cases where people pretend to be the parent or guardian of a minor seeking asylum, where in fact there is no family link and the child may have been trafficked into the country.

Dr Brazil also said minors seeking asylum were also denied aftercare once they turned 18, and that some asylum-seeking minors who were in the care of the State until they reached 18 then faced being put into direct provision.

She also raised another issue regarding immigration.

“On the immigration side, while every non-Irish citizen must have permission to be in Ireland, only people over 16 are subject to the requirement to register with the immigration authorities,” said Dr Brazil.

“This can cause issues where a child goes to register at 16 having been under the mistaken belief that they had permission to be in Ireland, and can suddenly find themselves in a precarious situation, possibly facing deportation.”

Dr Brazil said that issues raised in an article written in 2005 by Sunniva McDonagh BL in The Bar Review had still not been addressed.

“These concerns are not new, but nothing has been done to address them, and the new International Protection Act 2015 was a missed opportunity to introduce more robust standards and procedures around these issues,” said Dr Brazil.

She said current arrangements were “very ad hoc”.

She said that the Department of Justice appeared to be “quite resistant to change” and that there were still gaps in the law and in terms of information available on the children affected.

“What is happening in these gaps — what I think is happening is these children are being left very vulnerable,” she said. “Who is looking after these children? Who is looking after their interests? Nobody.

“The Government deliberately chose not to adopt a universal best interests requirement in the Children’s Rights referendum, probably in part because they did not want decision-making in the asylum/immigration field subjected to that standard, but the consequences for migrant children of the failure to recognise their individual rights, and the failure to ensure the law adequately protects them from abuse such as trafficking, is a serious problem.”

Dr Brazil was among the speakers yesterday at a conference on State Accountability for Vulnerability held at the School of Nursing in Dublin City University.

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