Call for action after investigation reveals eight missing migrant children

Eight “separated children”, who came to Northern Ireland without their parents or legal guardian, have gone missing since 2005, a new BBC investigation has discovered.

BBC Spotlight reports that eight separated children have gone missing between 2005 and 2014 and remain missing.

The revelations have led to serious questions being asked of the Health and Social Care Board and the legal framework surrounding the arrival and care of separated children.

Aidan McQuade from Anti-Slavery International told the BBC that he believed the eight cases would be “a scandal across these islands” if the missing children were locals rather than migrants.

One leading legal organisation has now called on the Department of Health to implement certain provisions of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015.

Ursula O’Hare, head of policy at Law Centre (NI), told Irish Legal News: “We are glad that BBC Spotlight has highlighted the issue of separated children going missing.

“In January 2015, Northern Ireland passed a comprehensive piece of anti-trafficking legislation, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.

“The Act contains a ground breaking provision of Independent Guardianship, which would benefit all separated children arriving by themselves in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately this provision has not yet been implemented and so Law Centre (NI) calls on the Department of  Health to put it in place as a matter of urgency.

“While Independent Guardianship cannot offer a guarantee against children going missing, we believe guardians will go towards minimising the risk of this happening. We owe it to this group of 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.”