Thank you for your question on this pressing matter.
I am extremely concerned with the plight of the refugees in Moria following the fires there, especially young people who are without parents or family in the camp. Ireland has committed to bringing four children from Moria in the coming weeks.
The state’s capacity to bring unaccompanied children to Ireland is determined by the available care placements, and the commitments the state has made to unaccompanied children who are already here.
Due to the level of need among refugees since the destruction of the Moria camp, I am seeking to expand Ireland’s capacity to care for unaccompanied children. My Department and Tusla officials are examining the immediate requirements to fulfil Ireland’s existing commitments, including expansion of care placements and working with Department of Justice officials to identify unaccompanied children who wish to come to Ireland.
Ireland provides care for two groups of unaccompanied children - children who arrive as part of refugee relocation programmes, and children who arrive without parents or guardians to ports of entry and seek asylum. All children who are unaccompanied are received into care under the Child Care Act 1991.
Both categories of child are sometimes referred to as unaccompanied minors or UAMs and are cared for by the same Tusla specialist team called the Separated Children Seeking Asylum Team. The young people are, in the main, young boys aged between 15 and 17 years on arrival.
Separated Children Seeking Asylum (SCSA)
This is the largest cohort of unaccompanied children who come into Tusla care when they present to the immigration authorities at our sea and air ports. The service provided to these children is demand-led, and accurately estimating future demand is challenging, particularly as the effects of Brexit are yet to be seen. The children are received into care at are placed in residential and foster care.
Tusla's Separated Children Seeking Asylum team received 167 referrals in 2019. These referrals include children who arrive unaccompanied at a port of entry but who have an adult relative or friend who lives in Ireland and is willing to care for them. The SCSA team carries out preliminary enquiries to ensure that the person has a genuine relationship with the child, and does agree to care for them before placing the child in their care.
The children who do not have adult relatives or guardians are received into care, and there were 46 of these children in 2019.
Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP)
The Irish Refugee Protection Programme is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality. Since 2017, Tusla has participated in the European Union Relief Projects (EURP) which include IRPP, Calais Special Project (CSP), Malta Relief, Greece Relief. The following is a breakdown of the programmes to date:
41 from France under CSP
6 from Greece Relief under IRPP
8 from Malta Relief under IRPP
8 from Greece under the IRPP in June 2020
I hope I can rely on the Deputy's support in my efforts to receive more unaccompanied young people from Greece under the IRPP programme.