The number of lone children seeking asylum in Scotland more than doubled last year, a charity has said.
Figures from the Scottish Guardianship Service show it helped 165 children and young people who arrived in Scotland in 2019, up from 81 the previous year.
The Scottish Guardianship Service, which is run by Aberlour Children’s Charity and the Scottish Refugee Council, supports children and young people aged 18 and under who arrive in Scotland alone and separated from their families.
Almost half of the young people (45%) have been trafficked and exploited in industries such as cannabis cultivation and nail bars or for sexual exploitation.
Over the last 10 years, the service has helped more than 700 young people from 38 countries and, to mark its 10th anniversary, is launching a new short film this week to explain some of the particular difficulties facing unaccompanied young asylum seekers.
Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Children can become separated from their families as a result of war, terrorism and other conflicts.
“This shatters their lives and we see the impact of this every day.
“Many of the young people we support have been trafficked, others have lost everyone they had, and all have been through situations that no child should have to deal with. Now they are alone in a new country.
“This is too much for a child to cope with without the support of a dedicated guardian.
“Our guardians at the Scottish Guardianship Service recognise that these traumatised young people are more than statistics, they are kids with hopes and dreams.
“Alongside Aberlour, we have worked over the last 10 years to offer a helping hand to young people seeking protection in Scotland.”
The service provides each young person with a trusted professional who provides long-term support through the legal and immigration processes.
It also helps to provide a sense of community, introducing young people to others their age who have been through similar experiences.
SallyAnn Kelly, chief executive of Aberlour, said: “The children and young people we help in the Scottish Guardianship Service have been through unimaginable traumas.
“Alone in a new country, they face language and cultural barriers, hostility and complex bureaucracy.
“This is where our guardians come in, building relationships with the young people to help them through this extremely difficult period in their lives.
“We are proud of what our young people and our team have achieved over the past 10 years. At a time when the world is so hostile towards people seeking safety, the knowledge that we have helped so many young people to heal, to feel empowered and to achieve their dreams is a huge victory.
“There is, however, so much more to do. The Scottish Guardianship Service is striving to provide more secure and fulfilling futures for the growing number of unaccompanied young people needing the service.
“Let us hope for a future that will see all those forced from their own homes to seek sanctuary afforded safe passage and a welcome shaped by compassion and kindness.”