Northern Ireland

Child traffickers target Northern Ireland border

Child in window

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is an attractive gateway for child traffickers, according to an international report.

The report by child protection organisation, Ecpat, said the Republic of Ireland was being used as a transit point for trafficking to the UK.

The NI border and ferry crossings from the Republic to Wales are favoured.

Ecpat said Ireland was among the poorest performing EU states in combating sex trafficking of children.

The authors said children as young as three years old were being bought and sold.

While the report commended the UK for its efforts in fighting child trafficking, it said the Republic of Ireland was among the worst performing states in the EU.

Although no reliable figures exist for the numbers trafficked in Ireland, victims' groups warn it is a growing problem.

They are particularly concerned about the number of children who go missing from Irish state care - 441 over the past 10 years.

Jillian Van Turnhout, chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance in Ireland said: "We are finding that some children are actually trafficked into Ireland and then moved up across the border into the north of Ireland or across by ferry links to Wales into the UK.

"It concerns us that Ireland would be seen to be a weak point in a chain. We need to stand together. It is a global issue. We need, as countries, to stand together."

Campaigners have called on the Irish government to put in place clear systems to help those who have been trafficked and those children at risk.

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