500% increase in unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the Republic, data shows

Figures show 29 child asylum seekers have disappeared since 2021

PICTURE POSED BY A MODEL A teenage girl with her head in her hands
It is feared tens of thousands of child refugees have gone missing in Europe over the last four years, with many believed to have fallen onto the hands of sex traffickers. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Republic has seen a 500% increase in the number of children arriving to claim asylum, according to data.

The figures from child and family agency Tusla show 607 unaccompanied minors were referred to its Separated Children Seeking International Protection (SCSIP) service over the last 15 months.

The statistics revealed by not-for-profit journalism project Lost in Europe, which investigates tens of thousands of missing child migrants, show that of the 607 total, 243 arrived in the first three months of this year, more than half of the total for last year.

The Tulsa data shows 29 child migrants have disappeared form state care in the Republic between January 2021 and this month, including those fleeing conflict in countries such as Syria and Sudan.

Lost in Europe has found that across Europe as a whole, over 51,000 migrant children have gone missing since arriving in Europe between 2021 and 2023.

It is feared many have fallen into the hands of sex traffickers.

Tusla has said it is “acutely aware of and shares” concerns about the increased risk of child trafficking and the exploitation of vulnerable young people.

MECPATHS, a group raising awareness of child trafficking in Ireland, told the Noteworthy investigative journalism website the figures were “deeply concerning”.

Its network manager JP O’Sullivan said: “We are concerned that the vulnerabilities of these children have been identified by individuals or groups seeking to exploit them and that they may have been trafficked for criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation or other types.”