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Lots of kids go to Ireland for a better life but disappear. He was OK.

Some kids go missing, while others live like this.

Lots of kids go to Ireland for a better life but disappear. He was OK.
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The Atlantic Philanthropies

The video below is based on a teenager's life. His identity was kept secret to protect his anonymity.

For the sake of this story, I'll call him Jay.


Jay's mom died when he was little, and his father lived a dangerous life. So when he had a chance to leave Nigeria at the age of 15, he did.

"I got the opportunity with my uncle to leave the country, and we came over here and decided to go seek refuge in a country, go somewhere safe."

But when Jay got to Ireland, it was clear that his life wouldn't magically snap into place.

"I never knew anything about Ireland until I came here. And at that point in time, I was like, 'If I go back home now voluntarily, I don't think I'll survive.' But if worst comes to worst, you know ... it's meant to be."

He's not alone. Since 2004, hundreds of unaccompanied minors have come to Ireland looking for better lives, according to the last reported count done in 2009 by the Ombudsman for Children's Office in Dublin, which advocates on behalf of kids.

"My uncle was an agent and just said, 'Go to the Justice Department ... and say, "Here I am."' Then I did that and he disappeared. ... I think I had a short-sleeve shirt on. And it was still sunny back home but it was freezing here."

Classified as "separated immigrant children" by the government, most kids like Jay get a tiny food stipend and are placed in youth hostels throughout Dublin.


"There are about 40 kids in there with just one person. ... Nobody is going to look after you. ... You're just basically told to go look for a school yourself."

After living in a hostel for over a year, 16-year-old Jay was called in for an interview at the Justice Department.

"That was scariest thing that ever happened to me. ... You were asked about ... very obvious things like why didn't I just leave from Lagos straight away. ... I was trying to get out of the situation there. I didn't plan all these things. ... I'm like ... 'I'm a kid, for crying out loud. How am I supposed to know I'm supposed to do this?' I came out feeling like a criminal."

He describes the citizenship process as a mental waiting game — one that not everyone wins.

"At some point, you finish school and then you're waiting, waiting, and waiting. You don't hear anything back for, I'll say, five years. ... If you wake up in the morning, you don't leave that room. You're still in the same surrounding. ... There is a friend of mine right now who is mad just from that. ... He was put in a hospital. ... He was someone who was very lively ... and eventually he couldn't even walk."

After being asked to leave the country, with the help of a teacher, Jay was finally given "leave to remain." He can stay in Ireland temporarily under certain conditions, like going to work or school.

Unfortunately, many of his friends didn't share his fate. Some of them went missing.

Sample missing-child flyers posted in Dublin

"It happened to one of my Chinese friends ... and a man named Zhen. The next day, there's no sign of them. And we asked them, 'What happened? Was he transferred to another hostel and we didn't know?' And his things were still there, obviously, so you're like, this is not somebody who just upped and left."


While most people might fear the worst, Jay says:

"I just want to think in my head that he's somewhere else, living happily and living safe, you know?"

My heart just dropped.

Watch his story in this documentary:

Fact Check Time:

The filmmaker, Anna Byrne, told us that, taking into account the children who weren't officially documented as missing, 500 is a more accurate number for the number of separated children who have gone missing than the Ombudsman for Children's publicly stated figure of 419.

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