Suffer Little (Separated) Children

OCO-Logo-930x360The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) released a report yesterday on Separated Children Living in Ireland. The report defines separated children as being under 18,  being outside their country of origin, and separated from both parents or legal guardian(s). The Child Care Act 1991 and the Refugee Act 1996 place responsibility on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to cater for the needs of separated children.

The OCO has stated that separated children are not treated equally to Irish children,despite the same social work legal and regulatory system being in place. Very few of these children are placed in foster care. These children are often placed in unregistered hostels for children, run by private, for profit, companies. Separated children, involved in the compilation of the OCO report, noted the poor standard of these hostels, the fact that those not deemed as ‘at risk or vulnerable’ do not have access to a social worker, the problems with age verification, issues with children understanding and issues with the asylum process.  The separated children also told, in their own words, their experiences within the Irish social ‘care’ system. In addition, the children have prepared a Guide to Dublin for all children.

The wider Irish socio-legal background to children’s rights should however not be forgotten. (See Sinead’s post on historical disrespect for the rights of the child in Ireland).  For those children arriving in Ireland seeking protection, either alone, or with families, there is a legacy of disrespect for fundamental human rights. The Irish courts have stated that the rights of the citizen child do not even have to be considered when deportation of their non-national parents is at issue (see here). On the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and on Universal Children’s Day, not only is there a need to fully respect the rights of all children, but of all persons. In HRiI‘s Immigration and Belonging Blog Carnival the various contributors noted how language, policies and laws of exclusion have resulted in rights violations for those newly arrived in the State. International human rights treaty law respects the rights of all, not just of certain groups, but everybody-this needs to be the starting point of all discussions on rights protection.