Separated children who come to Ireland to seek asylum are taken into the care of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Separated children seeking asylum are defined as “children under eighteen years of age who are outside their country of origin, who have applied for asylum and are separated from their parents or their legal/customary care giver”.
As the Deputy may be aware, the majority of separated children seeking asylum present at ports, airports or points of entry to Ireland and are referred to Tusla under the International Protection Act 2015. In addition unaccompanied minors are received into the care of Tusla through programmes such as the Calais Special Project (CSP) and Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).
In December 2018 there were 67 separated children seeking asylum in the care of Tusla, which includes young people arriving through the IRPP programme and those presenting at ports, airports and points of entry. All children and young people in this service have an allocated Social Worker. All young people and young adults in the service who are entitled to Aftercare services have an allocated Aftercare Worker.
Young people in the IRPP were brought in under the following programmes:
Calais Special Project (41)
EU Relocation Programme (6)
Malta Programme (4)
Tusla is currently engaged in a further mission to Malta, to carry out interviews with the young people with a view to relocating a further 5 unaccompanied minors to Ireland this year.
My colleague Minister Flanagan has written to Greek authorities to inform them of our intention to accept an additional 36 separated children seeking asylum from the refugee camps in Greece, under the IRPP programme. Tusla has begun to liaise with the agencies responsible for unaccompanied children in Greece, with the support of the IRPP and the Irish Embassy in Athens, for the identification and nomination of unaccompanied children who fit the profile for relocation to Ireland.
I would note that there has been a existing service for separated children seeking asylum for a number of years. Capacity to meet commitments of Government has been put in place.
A tendering process took place in 2017 to award private providers a contract for three 6-bed residential centres. The same tendering process allows for provision of further residential places, if needed, where the provider would be asked to provide one 6-bed centre. However, in 2017 two of Tusla’s statutory children’s residential centre’s changed their purpose and function to become centres for separated children seeking asylum. In total these two centres are providing 9 placements and no additional places have been sourced to date under the new contract.