Groundbreaking Scottish project for asylum-seeking children

Michael Russell MSP helps launch groundbreaking Scottish project for asylum-seeking children

Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, will today give his support to a unique scheme to help children who arrive in Scotland alone and seeking asylum [June 9].

The Scottish Separated Children’s Guardianship Pilot will be the first of its kind in the UK. It will be delivered in partnership by Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Child Care Trust, with support from the Big Lottery Fund, the Scottish Government, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Diana Princes of Wales Memorial Fund.

The Pilot will offer independent support to extremely vulnerable children who arrive in Scotland without parents or family, from highly dangerous countries including Afghanistan and Iraq.

Up to five children arrive in Scotland every month in these circumstances. The new project will mean they have an independent ‘guide’ through the complex asylum and welfare systems, who will also help them to take a more active role in their own asylum claim.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We have been calling for such a scheme for many years now and so are delighted to be able to launch this exciting pilot, which is the first of its kind in the UK.

“We have regularly encountered children who experience difficulties in accessing education and welfare benefits, have problems with legal representation, face racism and bullying or whose age is disputed.  We firmly believe that a system of guardianship will help to address these issues.”

Addie Stevenson, Aberlour's Chief Executive, said: “Aberlour is delighted to be the chosen partner of Scottish Refugee Council and to bring our skills and experience to this new service for vulnerable young people.

“We have already established excellent working relationships with Scottish Refugee Council and more importantly we have been able to engage with young people and to involve them in the design of the service. 

“It is a really good example of partnership working between two organisations and the young people who need help to negotiate a myriad of complex systems with confidence.”

Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “We must not be complacent about the stress, anxiety and fear that many of these young people entering our country feel. They are then are faced with complex and rigorous immigration, social, legal and welfare systems - and for most with a limited understanding of English. 

“Therefore I am pleased that here in Scotland we are pioneering a project to support these vulnerable young people through these processes. I hope it goes some way to helping them deal with some of the treatment they may have been subject to.

“We will continue to do all that we can to make sure the experience of all children, either with family members or unaccompanied, is as positive as it can be and that they are treated with humanity and dignity during the time they spend in Scotland.”

 Ends

For more information, full briefing and written case studies contact:

Scottish Refugee Council: Karin Goodwin and Clare Harris on 0141 223 7927/ 07734 030 763

Aberlour Child Care Trust: Tom McAllister on 01786 230522/ 07595 245205

Scottish Government: John Robertson on 0131 244 4001/ 07810 507 010

Notes to Editors

Currently there are over 160 separated young people, mostly in Glasgow, from countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. Many children arrive in Scotland following traumatic events, such as the persecution or death of one or both parents.

 In 2006, Scottish Refugee Council and Glasgow University’s Centre for the Child and Society launched a major piece of research, This is a Good Place to Live and Think About the Future, based on the experiences of separated children. It documented the intense stress children are under and the need for them to be recognised as children and supported as such. It is available on the Scottish Refugee Council website at: http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/pub/UASC_report

 Scottish Refugee Council is an independent charity dedicated to providing advice, information and assistance to asylum seekers and refugees living in Scotland

We play a leading role in policy development and campaign on refugee issues to ensure that Scotland plays a full role in meeting the UK's legal and humanitarian obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees.