12 October 2023

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children recognised at awards ceremony

A group of teenagers who fled from Afghanistan have been honoured for their resilience and in overcoming adversity.

The boys, aged between 16 and 18 all arrived in the UK after enduring extremely difficult, life-threatening journeys from their home country. 

They were recognised at an awards ceremony celebrating the success of care experienced young people at Thainstone House Hotel in Inverurie last week.

On arriving in the UK they are classified as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).

UASC are children and young people seeking asylum in the UK but who have been separated from their parents or carers.

Whilst their claim is being assessed by the Home Office, the children are cared for by local authorities across the UK via the National Transfer Scheme.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Community Learning and Development (CLD) worker Frank Ross said: “Some of these journeys took several months, whilst others can take years, crossing many borders. 

“The risk to young people journeying across continents by any means necessary is extreme, uncertainty is constant, and abuse is a real possibility. The impact upon their physical and mental health as well as the lack of access to support and resources cannot be underestimated. 

“There is also a real lack of control over the route they take, the methods in which they travel and their destination. 

“Upon arriving in the UK after staying in England for a short time they were transferred to Fraserburgh, having no input or control over this either. This truly was an alien land to them.” 

Supported by Aberdeenshire Council’s social work UASC team, the boys arrived in Fraserburgh last year with few belongings and were provided with accommodation.

Despite the difficulties they faced and the traumatic events that led to them being here, they manage the challenge of adapting to a new culture.

Frank continued: “The boys have worked closely with CLD since November and have been engaging in learning about their local community and the resources available to them, making connections with people and organisations who can offer them further support. 

“Despite some challenges communicating they continue to attend groups and take part in sessions, continually showing gratitude and respect for the efforts people are making. People within the community have also benefited through their interactions with the boys, learning about their situation. 

“This contributes to demystifying stereotypes and some of the concepts of asylum seekers portrayed in the media. The boys also attend college and school and have joined the local cricket club. They are working hard to learn and develop their English as well as learn about other subjects.” 

It became mandatory in late 2021 that all local authorities were expected to offer placements up to 0.1% of their child population. Their placements are funded by the Home Office.

For Aberdeenshire, this represents the potential for caring for approximately 54 children.

The UASC team spend significant time building trusting relationships with the young people, ensuring they feel safe and welcomed, helping them adapt to their new home and town. 

This includes taking them shopping, helping them develop cooking skills, registering with a GP, dentist and familiarising them with the local area, transport links, churches/places of worship, leisure facilities, as well as supporting their education and learning English.

Recently the boys took part in the Sounding Out project where they worked with professional musician, DJ and film maker, gaining experience using music production, DJ and film and photography equipment.

This provided an opportunity for them to capture images form the local area, sharing music from their own culture, using it to create work that is unique to them.

Frank added: “We were delighted to see the boys recognised because of the resilience they have shown in overcoming adversity, remaining positive and open to opportunities, to showing an interest in learning about a new culture and community and being so supportive of each other. 

“They are still at the beginning of their journey, laying the foundations for a successful life in Scotland. They are young people who have missed out on the opportunity to be young, yet despite this maintain an enthusiasm for what lies ahead.”