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Implement independent guardianship to protect separated children

Anti-trafficking young people project poster

Following the finding by BBC NI’s Spotlight programme a BBC Spotlight programme that eight separated children went missing in Northern Ireland since 2005, Law Centre (NI) is calling for independent guardians to be put in place urgently.

Law Centre (NI) understands that the Health Board has taken measures to ensure that separated children (under 18s who have come to Northern Ireland without a parent or legal guardian) are now better protected. However, the Law Centre believes that all separated children should have access to independent legal guardians and calls on the Department for Health to put this in place urgently.

Law Centre (NI) head of policy Ursula O’Hare said: “One child going missing is one too many. While Independent Guardianship cannot offer a guarantee against children going missing, we believe guardians will go towards minimising the risk of this happening”

Independent Guardianship is a ground breaking provision of the anti-trafficking legislation, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. Unfortunately, this provision has not yet been implemented.

Ursula O’Hare continued: “We owe it to these 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”.

See the Law Centre's briefing on protection for separated children subject to immigration control (note: this background briefing predates the 2015 Act).

Read a statement by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Read an Irish Legal News article about the issue.

Read BBC articles on the disappearances and on MLAs’ calls for an inquiry.

Law Centre (NI)'s Anti-Trafficking Young People Project was pleased to contribute to the programme. The Project offers legal support and advocacy to young people who have been identified as possible victims of trafficking.

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