The submission outlined concerns and recommendations across five areas of concern:
- Human trafficking
- Domestic violence
- Children living in the Direct Provision system
- Right to education
- Racism in schools
Ireland is up for review by the committee this week, 24 and 25 January 2023.
Below we lay out some details of our concerns together with our recommendations.
CONCERNS ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Human trafficking of children in Ireland
The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report states that “Traffickers subject Irish children to sex trafficking.” Between 2018 and 2021, of 169 trafficking investigations reported by Government, 103 were for sex trafficking. Yet, trafficking of children for exploitation was not addressed in the State’s 2022 report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
Ireland has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, despite signing it in 2000. Given that it has been 22 years, it is concerning that the State remains ill-equipped to ratify the protocol.
CONCERNS ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The current programme for government states ‘there is an epidemic of domestic, sexual and gender based violence“
In 2021 there was a staggering 5,735 disclosures of abuse against children living in situations of domestic violence and Covid has only exacerbated this number.
- There is a continuing concern that there is no clear disaggregated data set that would include children affected by Domestic Violence.
- The 3rd National Strategy on Domestic Violence strategy falls short in the need to ‘commit to developing a more accurate understanding of the true level and scale of need of children experiencing domestic violence.
- We are concerned that the views and wishes of children and young people suffering Domestic Violence are not given appropriate consideration.
- We have a specific concern that children, as victims of domestic violence in their own right, are not sufficiently protected, nor is there acknowledgement of the pain and difficulty that vulnerable children experience in relation to domestic violence and abuse.
- Not every child who experiences domestic violence is recorded, as the shortage of necessary refuge spaces for all victims means that the domestic abuse suffered by many children remains unseen and therefore unrecorded.
- We are concerned that there is a continuing lack of refuge spaces for children at risk in situations of Domestic Violence.
- The continuing lack of refuge spaces for children at risk in situations of Domestic Violence is in breach of articles 19 and 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as articles 2 and 3.1. Such failings hamper Ireland’s progress on SDG 5.2.
- The State should commission state-funded research to get a more accurate picture of the scale and prevalence of children experiencing domestic violence and abuse within
- The State should ensure that the detailed implementation plans of the recent Third National Strategy on DSGBV defend the right of children to protection and recovery, and for the family to be able to stay safe and together with the non-abusive parent.
Ireland falls short of the required number of refuge spaces to meet this requirement and to meet the needs of women and children escaping domestic violence and abuse.
- The State should urgently implement the plan to increase the number of available refuges spaces by 139 (from the current 140 places to 280 refuge places) in the immediate to short-time, rather than ‘during the lifetime of the strategy’ as outlined in the Third National Strategy on DSGBV.
- Ireland should further increase by the number of refuge spaces by 75 (from 280 to reach 355), in line with Istanbul Convention, and ensure that 70% of the population is within a 30-minute drive of a refuge space, and that this would be done in as quick a time frame as possible.
CONCERNS ABOUT CHILDREN IN DIRECT PROVISION
- There remain barriers preventing a small cohort children in Direct Provision accessing third-level education. Notwithstanding the new departmental schemes, sanctuary scholarships or discretionary supports, some students living in Direct Provision may still find that they are financially disadvantaged when it comes to taking up a third-level course to which they have been accepted, for example those who are less than three years in the system.
- Living conditions in Direct Provision Centres are detrimental for healthy child development. As a consequence of living in Direct Provision, children are at risk of poverty, deprivation and social exclusion, all of which undermine their human development, health and wellbeing.
- Delay in the implementation of the Government’s commitment to end Direct Provision by 2024. The long existing and on-going housing shortage and the additional demand created by war refugees from Ukraine make the ending of Direct Provision by 2024 unlikely leaving children in unfits conditions.
- Direct Provision undermines the integration of children into wider society. The remote location of certain centres, limited transport, and lack of funds are serious factors in isolating children and undermining their healthy integration.
- The State should acknowledge and take steps to ensure that the remaining Small group of students in Direct Provision, who have progressed through the Irish Education System and completed their Leaving Certificate should be afforded the supports necessary to access higher education on the same basis and at the same level of fees as their Irish citizen peers
- In light of the pressure on resources and changes in circumstances that have occurred since the publication of the White Paper to End Direct Provision in 2021, the State should review and update the timeline, budget and allocation of responsibilities in order to achieve the aim of ending Direct Provision by the stated date of 2024 and to avoid delays.
- In the medium to long-term, the State should take a cross-cutting approach to policy and include provision of appropriate family accommodation for asylum seekers in national housing policy, planning and budgeting. In this manner, a fully integrated national housing programme would include an in-built provision to meet the need of asylum seekers.
- In relation to the additional problems, that may delay the end of the Direct Provision system, the State should provide an updated action plan that includes updated targets and detail as to how those targets will achieved.
CONCERNS ABOUT THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION
- The needs of children at risk of early school-leaving are not being met. Some three per cent of children of statutory school-going age leave the education system without qualifications and without completing their education. This applies, in particular, to children in disadvantaged circumstances. Research studies have indicated that the mainstream schooling system is poorly adapted to learning styles of this cohort of young people, and is unable to provide an environment that best facilitates personal and interpersonal development.
- Data for children currently in the Direct Provision system is insufficiently detailed or comprehensive to assess accurately the risk of early-school leaving for this cohort of pupils. The absence of disaggregated data in this regard renders pupils living in Direct Provision almost invisible. Nonetheless, the general pattern of impact would suggest that school completion outcomes for children in Direct Provision is likely to be negatively affected.
- It is clear that a cohort of students of school-going age at risk of leaving school early are likely to be without an adequate educational response to their needs, needs which are now well known and well documented. A significant barrier to meeting the diversity of needs of students at risk of early school-leaving appears to be an emphasis on a one-size-fits-all approach, rather than a multi-varied approach to meeting their needs.
- In implementing the development of a more coherent and integrated system of support for children at risk of early school leaving, The State should avoid a “one size fits all” approach and instead acknowledge and respond to the varying specific needs of learners.
- The State should investigate and apply best practice from other jurisdictions with particular reference to pupil-tracking, learning plans, and, where necessary bespoke support solutions, to ensure equity for all. Recognizing the diversity of needs, the State should continue to support existing providers outside the mainstream system while moving towards a more coherent and integrated system of provision.
CONCERNS ABOUT RACISM IN SCHOOLS
The impact of racism in the school setting is a serious concern of relevance to the rights of children of ethnic minorities.
- We are concerned that schools are not addressing the issue of racism.
According to the staff of the Cork Migrant Centre, students rarely report incidents of racism to teachers as they feel unsupported, that nothing will be done, or that the incident will be dismissed lightly. Schools, as institutions, require an institutional response to deal with racism.Decolonizing the curriculum is a key aspect of eradicating racism in the schools.The Cork Migrant Centre & the Youth Initiative Against Racism team is finalising a pilot anti-racist toolkit for primary school students.
There may not be widespread overt racism in schools but there would appear to be a much wider culture of “soft” or systemic racism, a lack of sensitivity or ignorance to race issues that young students of colour find upsetting and alienating.
- We are concerned about the lack of disaggregated data on young people and racism, particularly in the school setting.
- The State should ensure that schools have specific policies around racism and discrimination that are explicit about what constitutes racism, and that would include protocols for reporting racist incidents and details of the consequences for breaches of policy.
- The State should ensure that schools include cultural competence and cultural awareness training for staff, that the school curriculum should reflect and respect diversity.
- The State should take steps to ensure that the school environment reflects inclusion and diversity, particularly in the classroom
- The State should ensure the development of detailed and effective steps to support the mental health and wellbeing of child victims of racist attacks.
- The State should make every effort to collect and collate quality disaggregated data that relate to racism using the resources of both state and civil society, and this should be coordinated by the Central Statistics Office.
- The State should undertake targeted research to better understand the impacts of racism on young people’s well-being and mental health with a view to assisting schools in making sure that victims are heard and that they are supported.
Our Joint Submission
This joint submission is a collaborative effort with the Christian Brothers European Province Advocacy Office (http://www.edmundrice.eu/), the International Presentation Association (https://globalpres.org/), the Society of African Missions – Irish Province (www.sma.ie), the Cork Migrant Centre (https://corkmigrantcentre.ie/), and Presentation Brothers Ireland (www.presentationbrothers.org). This work was supported with input from local grassroots groups and both national and international civil society organisations, not least of all MECPATHS (https://mecpaths.com/), with whom we have collaborated previously in raising awareness around issues of human trafficking.
You can download the OLA Joint Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child here: Input to the State Report of Ireland – Joint Submission – OLA-PBVM-SMA-CFC-FPM-CMC-IPA – 15 August 2022.