Fears that teenager is victim of human trafficking
WOMEN'S rights groups have warned that the disappearance of a teenage Chinese asylum seeker has all the hallmarks of a human-trafficking case.
The 17-year-old girl vanished in February after having arrived alone in Cork the previous month from Barcelona.
She had been placed by the HSE, via their 'out of home' programme, in supported accommodation in Cork.
The teen was last seen walking on the main street of Carrigaline, Co Cork. All efforts to trace her have failed so far and fears are now mounting that she may be in the UK.
Women's rights groups and anti-trafficking campaigners have expressed grave concern at the revelation the teen had her mobile phone with her when she disappeared -- the handset had just a single saved number in its memory.
Sexual Violence Centre Cork (SVCC) director, Mary Crilly, said the case should have triggered alarm bells.
"I think what is most alarming is the fact she had a mobile phone with just one number. It is very suspicious indeed," she said.
"For a person to disappear like this, in broad daylight in a busy Irish town, that really sends out alarm bells. We have come through a number of cases like this over recent years -- as many as eight or 10 in Cork," she added.
The HSE said it was deeply worried by the girl's disappearance -- and had been in contact with the UK authorities.
"It is of great concern that a separated child seeking asylum is missing from the Cork area and the HSE will continue to do everything possible to assist the gardai with their investigations," a HSE spokesperson said.
In 2005, a total of 65 children vanished from HSE care with only 14 subsequently being accounted for.
That figure fell to 22 in 2008 before soaring upwards again last year with 23 children vanishing from HSE-run hostels in just the first five months alone of 2009.