Date lodged: 7 May 2019
To ask the Scottish Government what statutory support it offers to young unaccompanied asylum seekers who have been dispersed to Scotland and who are challenging an age assessment on them that has been carried out in another part of the UK.
Answered by: Aileen Campbell 21 May 2019
Where a child arrives in Scotland unaccompanied and separated from their family, they are safeguarded under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 which affords them Looked After Children status and they have access to further services under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. Support and care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Scotland is provided by local authorities.
There are four routes for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people to be resettled in Scotland:
1. Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS);
2. Dublin III regulations;
3. The Dubs Amendment (s67 Immigration Act 2016); and
4. National Transfer Scheme (s69 Immigration Act 2016).
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people who are resettled in Scotland through any of the above schemes will already have completed an age assessment, including any dispute settlement procedures, and been assessed as being under the age of 18.
Scotland also receives a number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children through ‘spontaneous’ arrivals, and in these cases an age assessment may be required to ensure the right level of support is provided to the young person and they are given appropriate accommodation.
The Scottish Government’s revised Age Assessment Practice guidance, which was published in March 2018, states that in circumstances in Scotland where the age of a young person or child is uncertain, and there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are a child (under 18 years of age), local authorities should presume that they are under the age of 18. Similarly, in cases, where a young person states they are under 18, they should be given the benefit of the doubt and should remain in the care of social services, until their age is formally established.
Asylum seeking young people whose age is being disputed are still entitled to care and support under Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. If the young person does not agree with the outcome of an age assessment they can appeal with the help of a solicitor.
The process for carrying out age assessments sits within a wider policy framework relating to children and young people in each local authority, including child protection, looked after children and data protection considerations.
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are also eligible for a guardian through the Scottish Guardianship Service, which is funded by the Scottish Government, and delivered by the Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Trust. A Guardian will support a child or young person to be actively involved in decisions that affect their lives, including possible age assessment disputes, and will also help them to plan for their future.