Children who come to Ireland seeking asylum without the care of a parent are being looked after in hostels manned by security staff, it has emerged.

The information is contained in documents from the HSE which outlines the current situation for children.

"Many of these children are placed in hostels, where large numbers of children are accommodated, and which are staffed by security staff rather than qualified care staff."

Some 407 foreign children who have disappeared from HSE care since 2000 still remain unaccounted for.

Concern was previously expressed that children disappearing from hostels were being trafficked into labour and the sex trade.

There are currently six asylum hostels in Ireland. Plans from executive documents show the HSE now intends to close two of them by the end of October. They have also put out tenders to create a new national centre for separated children seeking asylum in Ireland, under the care of qualified staff.

The Ryan Report fast-tracked the phasing out of the asylum hostels, and the HSE is now seeking to build a national centre for children who enter care. This will involve "a transfer of a €3.5m budget from the Department of Justice ... for the funding of the accommodation element of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum."

The new policy will ensure that all children under 12 years will be placed in foster care service, and children between 12 and 18 in foster care placements or registered children's homes. The move has been welcomed by Irish refugee authorities.

The locations of the proposed new foster centre are understood to be in the region of, but not confined to, Cork, Galway, Sligo and Athlone.

The HSE has opened tenders to find interested applicants to run the new national centre, with the closing date for expressions of interest on the 28 September. The duration of the framework will last approximately two years with an option of an additional 12 months.