15 Jan 2015

15 January 2015

Human Trafficking Bill secures guardianship for trafficked and separated children

ROYAL Assent for the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill means Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to establish a guardianship service for trafficked and separated children on a statutory basis.

The Private Member’s Bill from Lord Morrow successfully passed all stages in the Assembly, with the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Law Centre (NI) working closely to secure an amendment that also protects all separated children, something not in the original document.

Mairéad McCafferty, Chief Executive for the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, welcomed the Bill receiving Royal Assent, saying: “What this now means is that both trafficked and separated children, under 18, who arrive in Northern Ireland without a parent, or primary care giver, will receive the support of an independent Guardian.

“Importantly, this person will have legal responsibilities, making them an authoritative figure among other stakeholders.”

“There are many reasons why children leave their homelands and these include being trafficked, orphaned, abandoned, fleeing persecution, escaping practices such as female circumcision, replacing missing children in other families, child abuse and domestic servitude,” said Ms McCafferty.

“Guardianship means trafficked and separated children will have someone to help them ‘navigate’ through the complex administrative and legal systems they find themselves in.”

Law Centre (NI) Director, Glenn Jordan, added:

“Over the years, the Law Centre has worked with several separated children arriving in Northern Ireland, many of whom have experienced war and trauma.

“We know that these children will benefit from a legal Guardian, whose role will complement existing support services.

“We are delighted that Northern Ireland is leading the way in ensuring the best possible support for this group of vulnerable children.”

By establishing a guardianship provision, Northern Ireland is successfully meeting a key obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  •  You can read the Commissioner’s and the Law Centre’s joint policy paper and the Commissioner’s report on Separated Children here.
  • Lord Morrow said the following in the Final Stage of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Bill:
    I record my gratitude to the Law Centre and the office of the Children's Commissioner. The Law Centre and the office of the Children's Commissioner provided valuable expertise with regard to the introduction of a guardian for separated children. I hope that they take pride in knowing that they played a critical role in seeing that provision become law.” [Source: Hansard]