New law comes too late for suspected victim of Nigerian child trafficking
THE people suspected of smuggling a Nigerian child into Ireland into a life of servitude to an African family cannot be charged under the new human trafficking legislation because the girl was rescued two days before the law came into effect.
The 12-year-old was discovered during a series of raids across the country during an investigation into illegal immigration on June 5, 2008. When the home of an African family in Castleknock was searched, the couple tried to pass off the girl as one of their own children.
Detectives observed that the girl was withdrawn, her body language showed no signs of a relationship with her supposed parents and she appeared neglected. She was taken into state care, where she remains two years later.
Investigators have since discovered that the child was taken from her home in Nigeria on the promise of an education and a better life in Ireland. Instead, she was kept in servitude.
Despite significant progress in the case, which detectives say bears the hallmarks of child trafficking for exploitation, prosecutions are unlikely.
The new law that made the trafficking of children a specific offence for the first time came into force on June 7, two days after the girl was rescued. The Director of Public Prosecutions is now considering whether the suspects could face other more minor charges relating to illegal immigration. The child, meanwhile, remains in the care of the Health Services Executive, even though her family in Nigeria have been tracked down by the authorities.
The joint raids were conducted by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland into the cross-border trafficking, and homes in Louth, Meath and Kildare were also searched.
The alleged exploitation of the Nigerian girl is one of several cases involving children in domestic servitude to have come to light in recent years.
The cases of at least 14 children who were alleged victims of trafficking are believed to be under investigation by the garda bureau.
Most recently, three men were convicted in Romania in December for trafficking 28 people, including a child, into forced labour in Ireland. The child was taken into the care of the health authorities following a series of garda raids in Wexford and has since been returned to his relatives.
More than 300 officers have been trained in how to identify indicators of trafficking in children and adults, according to Chief Superintendent John O'Driscoll of the GNIB.
In such cases, the child is typically denied an education, is kept at home for child-minding and other menial tasks, and is excluded from the family unit, say gardai.