Scotland

Support for child asylum seekers

Preston Kalunga
Image caption Preston Kalunga from Congo was dumped in Glasgow at the age of 15

Lone child asylum seekers who are smuggled or trafficked into Scotland are to be offered more support to navigate the asylum and welfare system.

The Scottish Refugee Council said there were currently about 200 children who had been dumped alone in Scotland.

Many are fleeing persecution or have lost one or both parents to conflict.

The Guardianship Project, the first of its kind in Europe, will see youngsters assigned an independent advocate while their asylum request is considered.

The service will be offered to people like Preston Kalunga.

He was smuggled into Scotland from Congo six years ago, aged 15, and left alone in Glasgow without a passport and unable to speak English.

He said: "That was the beginning of my life in Scotland. I didn't know anyone at the time. No friends, no family."

'Anxiety and fear'

About one child a week is found on the doorstep of the Scottish Refugee Council's offices in Glasgow.

Clare Tudor from the organisation said the number arriving in Scotland was on the increase.

She said: "We know that some young people are actually smuggled into the country, where their families have actually paid for them to be brought here.

"We are also becoming increasingly aware that a number of young people are sold into exploitative situations and are trafficked into the country."

Ian Turner of Aberlour Childcare Trust added: "They are alone in a strange country where they possibly don't speak the language and they are having to deal with very complex immigration and welfare processes."

Scotland's Education Secretary Mike Russell said it was important not to be complacent about the stress, anxiety and fear that many of the youngsters experienced upon their arrival.

He added: "They are then faced with complex and rigorous immigration, social, legal and welfare systems - and for most with a limited understanding of English."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites