Jillian van Turnhout, head of the Children’s Rights Alliance — a coalition of more than 90 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to secure the rights and needs of children in Ireland — said it should not be left to other countries to get to grips with the situation.
“Recent research has shown that Ireland is one of the poorest performing EU states in combating sex trafficking of children and young people. Between 2000 and 2010, 512 separated children went missing from state care, and just 440 of these have been found. It is feared that many of these vulnerable, missing children were trafficked,” she said.
Ms van Turnhout said although the Government has made some progress, child trafficking exists in Ireland.
“I have heard heart-breaking stories, including stories of children being trafficked in Sligo, Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin. This is an issue at the heart of our communities, albeit underground.”
Child trafficking is the third largest international crime, following illegal drugs and arms trafficking. The most common form of child trafficking is for sexual exploitation, accounting for 79% of all trafficking. Children are also trafficked and exploited for labour, forced participation in criminal activities, forced marriage, illegal adoption and domestic servitude.
According to the Immigrant Council of Ireland, 11 children were trafficked over a 21-month period in 2007 to 2008 using the internationally agreed definition.
NGOs working on anti-human trafficking in Ireland have expressed their concerns that victims of human trafficking are not being identified by authorities and that among the victims referred to the gardaí few are granted protective measures. The Ombudsman for Children, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and opposition politicians have all raised concerns about missing children and child trafficking.
The Government recently adopted a national action plan to prevent and combat trafficking, including measures on prevention and awareness raising, prosecution of traffickers, and protection of victims.
It also includes a specific section on child trafficking, containing measures on general awareness raising and training, and on fostering bilateral, multilateral and international cooperation across governmental and non-governmental sectors.