NI: Children’s commissioner backs call to commence trafficking law provisions

Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma
Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma

Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, has added her voice to calls for outstanding provisions of the Human Trafficking Act 2015 to be implemented.

Ms Yiasouma called on Health Minister Michelle O’Neill and Stormont’s health committee to take action in the wake of a BBC Spotlight investigation which found that eight separate children have gone missing from care in Northern Ireland since 2005.

Ursula O’Hare, head of policy at Law Centre (NI), told Irish Legal News earlier this week that the Act’s “ground breaking provision of Independent Guardianship … would benefit all separated children arriving by themselves in Northern Ireland”.

Ms Yiasouma said separated children “are particularly at risk of trafficking and exploitation” and it seemed “clear that over this period the system in Northern Ireland was unprepared, and without full safeguards in place for these children”.

She added: “Northern Ireland should have the highest standards of care in place for these children. NICCY has consistently advised government that we should be meeting international standards for separated children, and this includes making sure each child is supported by an independent Guardian. While this was introduced in law more than one year ago it is still not yet a reality in children’s lives.

“Guardians will not only help separated young people negotiate what can be a complex and unfamiliar system, but crucially also help to keep them safe. We cannot afford to delay this any further and I call on the Minister of Health and the Assembly Health Committee to urgently address this.

“I will continue to monitor the situation to ensure we continue to build on the developments we now have in place.”

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