A 17 year old African girl who was allegedly trafficked into this country and forced into prostitution has been taken into care. The HSE was granted an Emergency Care Order for the child whose parents are unknown.
The child had been attending school and a teacher became suspicious when the pupil failed to provide a PPS number despite being requested to do so on a number of occasions. She told the teacher she had to get a new passport and that her country’s embassy here had told her she would have to return to her home country to get a new one. The teacher became suspicious and asked her how she came to Ireland.
The child told the teacher her mother had abandoned her in Africa and she had been placed in an orphanage. She ended up living on the streets. She said a woman there had given her a fake passport and made her promise to pay her €20,000 otherwise she would be killed. She said she was taken to London and was held in a house there with other girls who were working as prostitutes.
The teacher said the girl told her that a man had brought her to Dublin. She went to live with a woman in Dublin who claimed she was her mother. This woman was looking for €200 a month rent and the girl told the teacher that she would have to pay back €20,000 for the passport. She had been forced to leave the house three months ago.
She had met a woman in Dublin who allowed her to stay with her from time to time but she said that she sometimes slept in gardens. The teacher said the child looked very thin and hungry and some months previously had to be removed from a classroom when she became upset during a talk on sex abuse. She was crying and told the teacher that the talk “makes me remember”.
Asked if there had been any contact with the supposed mother with whom she had previously been staying, the teacher said she had telephoned the school on one occasion to complain that the child was sleeping with people and was not sweeping the house. A man claiming to be her brother phoned the school about six months previously to ask what time did her class get out of school. It had since been established that she did not have a brother.
The school principal gave evidence that he phoned the child’s supposed mother who confirmed that she was no longer staying at home. She said she was going to parties and having sex with men. He said he considered it odd that she showed no compassion or feeling for the child. The woman said she could not live there while she was behaving like that. The child’s teacher then phoned the HSE.
A Garda sergeant told the court that, following a phone call from a HSE social worker, he went to the school and spoke to the child. She told him she had been abandoned by her mother and put into an orphanage. Two years ago she was taken to the UK and put into prostitution. She said she was then taken to Ireland to live with her supposed mother and she was given a false name. She was involved in prostitution here and said she was not living at home for three months.
Since then, she had no place to stay and had been living with other people. The garda said he believed adults had been using her for prostitution in this country and it was possible she could be returned to unknown people to be used in prostitution. He decided to take the child pursuant to section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 and he handed her over to the custody of the HSE. He noticed that she seemed very hungry and said he fed her in McDonalds on the way to the HSE.
Some of his colleagues had checked the social welfare records relating to the child’s supposed mother. She was claiming a lone parent’s allowance for a boy but there was no record of any claims relating to a girl. The house in which the girl had previously resided now had a sold sign on it and he had established that the woman had moved to a different location. The garda said the girl had made it quite clear to him that this woman was not her mother and the woman had not reported that the child was missing. He was anxious to interview the child before she had any further contact with this woman as there might be a number of very serious matters to be investigated, including rape.
A social worker with the HSE said she had spoken with the child by telephone the previous day. The child told her that she had been sent for by the woman who claimed to be her mother. She said she had been taken by a woman from Africa to London where she was placed in a home for girls who were prostituted and that she was prostituted herself. She told her she was not currently involved in prostitution but she said that she had been forced to have sex with men when she arrived here.
She said she had been treated extremely badly by the woman who had claimed to be her mother. She threw her out of home when she could not afford to pay her €200 a month and refused to allow her back. She was currently homeless with no status or money and was in a very vulnerable position.
The judge made an Emergency Care Order stating that he was making no finding in relation to the child’s account as to how she arrived in this country but that it required further investigation.