Cabinet Secretary for Justice Visits Scottish Guardianship Service


This week the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP visited the Aberlour Scottish Guardianship Service. Humza Yousaf MSP was invited along to the service by SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive of Aberlour, to highlight the problems many asylum-seeking children and young people face, specifically those who have been victims of human trafficking.

Aberlour delivers the Scottish Guardianship Service, along with our partners the Scottish Refugee Council, on behalf of the Scottish Government, and in doing so we work with many children and young people who are victims of trafficking. Specifically, our service provides independent advocates to support trafficked children and young people ensuring that the individual needs of those children and young people are recognised and supported appropriately, and that victims are better supported in their recovery from the trauma and the effects of being trafficked.

“However, there is more work to be done” stated SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive of Aberlour, “From working with these children and young people we have concerns around how the trafficking referral system currently operates”

Currently for a trafficked child or young person to successfully claim asylum in Scotland they must be referred via the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to the UK Home Office. This process can be not only bureaucratic and disconcerting for children to navigate, but also risks retraumatising them.

SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive of Aberlour, said:

“We currently support a young person who has been living with uncertainty and anxiety regarding their status for over two years, and they still do not know if they will be allowed to remain in the UK. This is just one example, but there are many more.”

The impact this process can have on a child or young person’s mental health can be profound. It is very difficult for a child or young person to feel safe and secure and to start the process of recovery, until this process has been completed and their status resolved.

Agnesa* (20) attended the visit and told Mr Yousaf:

“Young people arrive having lost the best part of their lives.”

SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive of Aberlour, said:

“We have a duty to care and support these children and young people who have already experienced unimaginable trauma in their young lives. We need to move away from this bureaucratic system and look to develop our own system here in Scotland, using the expertise of our Guardians and other qualified specialists, who understand the individual circumstances and have established relationships with those children and young people, to lead the trafficking decisions process. This would better ensure a strong safeguarding focus and child-centred approach.”

Said* (18) attended the visit and told Mr Yousaf:

“The best part [of being supported by the Guardianship] is attending groups and coming together with other young people. The Guardians help you to move forward and to help you with your future. They are there to keep you safe. I tell them everything because I know they understand.”

Humza Yousaf MSP, met with some of our young people affected by these issues as well as our team. Extra funding is required from the Scottish Government to ensure this vital service continues and they are treated as human beings and allowed the security and support to heal.

Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said:

“The young people we work with have experienced things no child should have to go through. But like all young people they are full of potential and have so much to offer. We know that with the right support, they can and do go on to thrive.

It’s so important that these young people are able to develop a sense of belonging here in Scotland. The UK asylum system must understand that these are children first and foremost and their immigration status comes second. How can anyone develop a sense of belonging if you have to wait for years and years for a decision to stay here?”

Mr Yousaf said:

“I heard hugely powerful testimonies from young people who have been helped by the Scottish Guardianship Service. It is clear the current asylum process is exacerbating trauma causing many children to suffer. We can and must do better.”

Donate now to Aberlour to help us reach more children affected by trauma.

> More information on our Scottish Guardianship Service.

*Names changed to protect anonymity.


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