Majority of over 100 missing children of either Asian or African origin
Published 28/03/2012 | 17:39
More than 100 children remain on Ireland's missing persons list, it has been revealed.
But one of the country's most senior Garda officers said there was no way to compare the figures with overseas because of "protocols" used to record them here.
John O'Mahoney, Garda assistant commissioner, said 114 children who were reported missing over the past five years have still not been found.
Of these, 106 vanished while under State care.
"The vast majority - and I can't give a specific figure - of those 114 children are either of African or Asian origin," said Mr O'Mahoney.
The whereabouts of another 98 adults - over the age of 18 years and who also vanished during the past five years - also remain unknown.
Appearing before an Oireachtas hearing on missing persons, Mr O'Mahoney said Interpol - the international police co-operation agency - has been notified about each of the children still missing in Ireland.
They are put on a "yellow notice" database issued to police forces around the world.
The assistant commissioner said the Garda would be notified if the children are ever located by other law enforcement agencies.
But Detective chief superintendent John O'Driscoll, of the Garda national immigration bureau, said that in many cases missing foreign national children had nothing to do with human trafficking.
Some went missing after coming into the country to be reunited with family members who had already arrived in Ireland, he told TDs and senators on the Oireachtas justice, defence and equality committee.
In other cases, foreign nationals posing as minors - so they will be accepted into the country, as required under law - are referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) but go missing before their age is confirmed, he added.
There were more than 40,500 reports to the Garda of missing persons over the past five years - averaging around 8,000 every year.
But Mr O'Mahoney said the actual number of people involved was closer to 4,000 a year because of repeat disappearances by some individuals.
Of these, 212 are still recorded as missing, 140 of them men or boys and 72 women or girls. Some 163 are originally from outside Ireland, while 49 are Irish citizens.
Mr O'Mahoney said children missing from care make up the majority of reports, and the vast majority of them are located safe and well within 24 hours.
Asked how Ireland's figures compared to other European countries, the senior Garda officer said it would not be explaining "like with like" because recording procedures here, also involving the HSE, are different to overseas.
Mr O'Mahoney also told the parliamentary committee that in some cases gardai are "95% sure" the missing persons are safe and well but can't take them off the list until there us confirmation from other police forces.
"On many occasions we find that those people end up either here or in the UK, reunited with family or with extended family or friends," he said.