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Separated Children 2009

A project about the life and level of care afforded to separated children in Ireland.

A separated child is, as defined by the Europe Programme, “a child under 18 years of age who are outside of their country of origin and separated from both parents or previous/legal customary primary care giver”.

What was it?

We spoke to separated children living in Ireland to get a better understanding of their lives and the level of care given to separated children. We have consistently raised awareness of the issues facing these separated children seeking asylum in Ireland at a national and international level, including highlighting it to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This consultation allowed us to hear directly from the young people themselves.

Who took part?

35 separated children took part in this project which ran from January 2009 to October 2009.

What did they say?

The group did a lot of work over the summer holidays and produced 2 outputs

  1. Your city/our city: a guidebook compiled by young people to give to future separated children when they arrive in Ireland.
  2. All I have to say: a collection of stories of how these separated children came to be in Ireland. Some wrote the stories themselves, others choose a writer to write on their behalf.

What did we do after the consultation?

After listening to what the separated children had to say, we wrote a report and recommended that:

  • The principle of best interests, as set out in Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, should guide any legislation affecting children, in particular separated children affected by the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2008.
  • The practice of accommodating separated children in hostel accommodation should cease.
  • All services for children, including hostel accommodation as an interim measure should be subject to regular, independent inspection.
  • Children Missing from Care; A Joint Protocol between An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive should be kept under review and adapted to take account of the particular circumstances of separated children who go missing.
  • The asylum process needs to take into consideration the particular needs of separated children. Staff involved in processes for children should be encouraged to treat separated children as children first and foremost, with considerations of their immigration status secondary. Appropriate training should be provided for all staff working with children in this context.
  • Given the significant role schools play in the lives of separated children, every effort should be made to develop a more inclusive school environment.
  • Consideration should be given to the establishment of a mechanism of advocacy for separated children. In addition, a guardian / adviser system should be introduced to ensure that children are independently advised and represented.
  • An effective communication and complaint mechanism should set up in all accommodation centres. The HSE should review the hostel complaints mechanism to ensure that children have a genuine mechanism to express any concerns. The complaints should be monitored not only by the hostels but also by the HSE and developments regularly communicated to the young people.
  • Aftercare should be established, for all children in care, as a statutory responsibility of the Health Services Executive.
  • Separated children are at grave risk of breaches of their rights to protection from harm, including from trafficking. There is a real need for a 24 hour 7 day a week support system to be put in place to protect these children from harm.

Read the full Separated Children Project Report here.