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Vulnerable teen asylum-seekers 'at risk in State care'

INTERNAL reports reveal how health workers repeatedly raised concerns about "vulnerable" teenage asylum-seekers while they were in State care here.

One report disclosed how a man pulled a knife on a teenage boy in the city hostel he was placed in by the Health Service Executive.

While staff intervened and no one was harmed, the incident showed "the absolute inappropriateness and dangers of the service provided by the Health Service Executive for these young boys", it said.

A report on another north city hostel, Ashton House, raised fears that teenage girls were at risk of being "retrafficked" while in the care of the State.

The report described how a "very vulnerable girl" received a visit from "a man in his late 30s and dressed in expensive clothing".

The man produced a student card. His details were recorded by staff, and gardai were notified of his visit the following day.

Support workers who were concerned for the girl said the event "reinforced the need for having surveillance cameras in place".

Another report said the hostel "is housing a number of young girls who have been trafficked and are at risk of re-trafficking", calling for surveillance cameras to "help identify unfamiliar visitors". Cameras were subsequently installed.

The incidents are documented in internal health service reports on seven privately run hostels where children aged up to 17 were accommodated when they arrived in the country alone and seeking refuge.

While the reports praise the staff of the hostels, inspectors criticised the HSE policy of putting asylum-seeking children into privately run hostels rather than regulated child- care facilities.

The HSE started phasing out the use of the hostels following criticism by the Children's Ombudsman, Emily Logan, last year and the last two closed in December.

Many of the 6,000 foreign children who arrived in Ireland in the past decade seeking refuge were placed in these hostels while their asylum applications were processed. More than 500 went missing from State care and 440 were never found.

Reports on Chester House in Dublin raised "child protection concerns" for children who stayed away from the hostel for days but refused to say where they were.

Children 'staying away' was a "regular occurrence" and "Chinese girls had a greater tendency to go missing after a very short time at the hostel", one report said.

The owners of five of the seven hostels were all contacted by the Sunday Independent, but most said they were precluded from commenting because of a confidentiality clause in their contracts with the HSE.

The owners of Brehon House and Adamscourt could not be contacted.

The HSE said that from the start of this year, the 90 child asylum-seekers who are currently in care have been placed in registered children's homes or are fostered out to families.

The reports were obtained by the Sunday Independent under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sunday Independent