Forty-five unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Ireland have gone missing from State care since 2017 and are unaccounted for, according to figures from the child and family agency, Tusla.
In total, 62 unaccompanied children were reported missing from State care in that time. Of these, 17 have been recorded as having returned or were otherwise accounted for.
According to Tusla, eight minors seeking asylum were reported missing while in care in 2017, three of whom returned or were accounted for.
In 2018, 11 children in care seeking asylum were reported missing. Two returned or were accounted for.
Of the 24 children in this cohort reported missing in 2019, six returned or were accounted for.
Eight unaccompanied minors in care were reported missing in 2020. None returned or were accounted for.
Five children in care were reported missing in 2021, three of whom returned or were accounted for.
Six children were reported missing last year. Of those, three returned or were accounted for.
Tusla said there are currently 201 unaccompanied minors in care here, including 71 unaccompanied minors from Ukraine currently in care or being accommodated.
In a statement, the agency said responding to children and young people seeking international protection is a complex process and Tusla, with other State agencies, is working to promote the safety and wellbeing of these children and young people.
It said all unaccompanied minors who arrive into Ireland are referred by Department of Justice officials to Tusla's team for separated children seeking international protection.
The statement said the aim is to reunify them with their families where possible, either in Ireland or in other member states.
But it said that when family reunification is not possible, Tusla will place the child in a placement with a foster family, in a residential care unit or supported lodgings that meets their particular needs.
The statement said that due to the significant number referred to the service recently, a young person may need to be placed in what it describes as a Special Emergency Arrangement with staff on site until a more suitable placement is found.
Once a child is deemed missing, An Garda Síochána is notified and gardaí have primary responsibility for investigating a child's whereabouts.
Tusla said it always remains concerned for the welfare of minors who go missing from their care and who do not get back in touch.
It said some young people who go missing from care communicate their intention to travel on to other member states to join family members.
Some indicate that it has never been their intention to remain in Ireland, and Tusla believes these young people had plans in place to leave.
The agency said it shares the concern of the State and the wider public about the increased risk of child and human trafficking, particularly in the context of increased people movement globally.
It said that since early 2022, Tusla has partnered with MECPATHS to raise awareness and provide frontline staff across their services with training on child trafficking in Ireland.
This has increased the agency's capacity to respond to this evolving area of need.
Number of unaccompanied minors who have been reported missing since 2017
2017 8 CIC reported missing, 3 returned or accounted for
2018 11 CIC reported missing, 2 returned or accounted for
2019 24 CIC reported missing, 6 returned or accounted for
2020 8 CIC reported missing, 0 returned or accounted for
2021 5 CIC reported missing, 3 returned or accounted for
2022 6 CIC reported missing, 3 returned or accounted for
Figures supplied by Tusla