The Irish "State" of protection for child victims of trafficking in its care: the human rights paradox of theory and practice
Trafficking in children/young persons could be likened to a game of hide and seek, where states, such as Ireland, must seek out victims who are being exploited, coerced and abused. The “game” does not end, however, upon discovery of the victim. Rather, it is required by international law that states correctly identify child victims and afford them special protection. The crime of trafficking is a violation of a child/young person’s human rights, and necessitates a child-centred human rights-based approach in order to ensure his/her well-being in a ‘protective environment’. Co-operation between State and non-State actors is a key element, and political will at all levels of society is required. Reality dictates, however, past tendencies to consider trafficking as an issue of law enforcement or migration. This paper will address the issue of trafficking from a human rights perspective, examining laws, policies and guidelines in place that aim to afford special protection to child victims. The case of Ireland will be analysed, addressing past and present issues and criticisms relating to standards of State care and treatment of separated/unaccompanied child victims. By moving beyond the theoretical surface of trafficking in Ireland, the paper intends to enlighten readers on Irish state practice in the arena of child trafficking.