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A child in the city of Irpin (file photo) Raphael Lafargue/PA

Unaccompanied children as young as 12 arriving into Ireland from Ukraine

14 unaccompanied children are currently in Tusla care.

THE HEAD OF Tusla has said that children as young as 12 are arriving unaccompanied from Ukraine and being taken into care by Irish authorities.

Bernard Gloster said this morning that the Child and Family Agency was caring for 14 Ukrainian children out of 95 youths across the system who are separated from their families and seeking international protection.

He said that Tusla has received 32 referrals of unaccompanied minors since the start of the war, 18 of whom were admitted to care. Four of those children were later discharged after being reunited with family or relatives.

“They would be predominantly from young to late teens, but as recently as yesterday we received a 12-year-old into care,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

Gloster said that children referred to Tusla after being separated from their families in war zones, such as those from Ukraine, Somaila and Afghanistan, often flee conflict as part of large groups where it appears their family is present.

They are usually discovered to be unaccompanied after arriving into points of entry when their details are processed.

Gloster said that Tusla is currently liaising with port authorities to ensure that children who have been separated are discovered as soon as they enter the country.

“We took the decision on 16 March… to actually establish a presence with the airport authorities in the multi-agency response,” he said.

“So we’re out there from half nine every morning to half two the following morning. I intend to keep that up and, depending on the scale of the demand over the next couple of weeks, at various other ports and centres we may have to mobilise a larger work force.”

Gloster said that Tusla staff at ports are also working with immigration services and government departments to ensure that children arriving with adults who are not their parents are not being trafficked.

“There are processes for discussing and obviously looking for any signs of distress,” he said.

“But where children are travelling with adults who are not their own parents, their details will be taken and where they’re going to be placed – either with a family or in hotel accommodation – those details will be made known centrally into the Tusla register…

“And we will be following up on those to ensure the greatest level of protection where we can.

“There are always risks in responding to mass refugee status, and I think we have to remember, in Eurocentric terms, this is the biggest movement of people seeking protection since World War 2; that does come with hazards and dangers.”

Gloster also said that unaccompanied children are receiving the same type of State care as other children, as well as more targeted care to help overcome language barriers and the fact that they are coming from a conflict.

Of the 14 children taken into care from Ukraine so far, one is in residential care, nine are with foster families and another four, who are around 17 and are heading towards adulthood, are in supported lodgings.

Gloster said foster families for Ukrainian children are assessed in the same way as foster parents normally are, through interviews and home visits as well as Garda vetting.

He added that Tusla is also assisting Gardaí, the Red Cross and the Government in carrying out vetting on host families for all Ukrainian arrivals.

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