11-year-olds 'expressing suicidal thoughts' in asylum-seeker centres

Children as young as 11, living in Direct Provision centres, have expressed thoughts of suicide, it has been revealed.

The Irish Refugee Council said today that conditions within the state-run system for asylum seekers are a source of serious distress for child residents and their families.

Social services have been alerted to more than 1,500 cases of welfare concerns at the centres right across the country.

The issues under investigation include numerous cases of inappropriate sexual contact and a series of mental health problems.

"We've come across children as young as 11 who have expressed thoughts of suicide because of the desperation of their situation," said Sue Conlon, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council..

"One girl who has been in the system for eight years, since she was a very young child, just not knowing when it is going to end, and seeing the impact upon their mother as well, and wondering what on earth it is that's going on and unable really to move on from that situation."

The Children's Rights Alliance has called on the Government to have HIQA investigate the 34 centres.

CRA chief executive Tanya Ward said that parents face serious challenges in terms of protecting their children in these centres, and HIQA needs to intervene.

"HIQA should have responsibility for investigating these centres," she said.

"It has been argued by the Government that because the children are with their parents, that there's no need for HIQA to take responsibility for these centres, but we'd disagree with that fundamentally.

"These centres are created by the State, they're institutions and the parents do not have full control over what happens in these centres."

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