Glasgow will play host this week to the European Guardianship Network, organised by NIDOS, and hosted by the Scottish Guardianship Network – a partnership between Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Children’s Trust.

Children make up over half of the world’s refugee population. On average, five children each month are trafficked into Scotland, or arrive here alone seeking asylum. In 2018, around 44% of children supported in Scotland showed signs of exploitation or trafficking.

Scotland has a unique and award-winning approach to supporting separated children. That this meeting will take place in Glasgow displays confidence in Scotland’s pioneering approach to guardianship. A Guardian is someone who accompanies children and young people when they claim asylum or are trafficked and are alone without a caregiver in the UK and are cared for by health, education and welfare services. A Guardian is on the child’s side and can explain what is happening to them, will listen to their experiences and speak up for them when needed.

The Scottish Guardianship Service has supported over 500 young people since 2010.

Today, over thirty delegates from different guardianship organisations across Europe will meet in Glasgow City Centre to share insights on supporting unaccompanied young people. This week’s conference provides an opportunity for our guardianship experts to share their experience and learn from other experts from across Europe, to celebrate the work that has been achieved, and to continue to further Europe’s capacity to professionally support refugee and trafficked children and young people.

This morning, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with a group of young people who we support as part of her 1000 Voices Campaign – where she aims to speak to 1000 people who have been through the care system.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy at Scottish Refugee Council:

“We are delighted to welcome the European Guardianship Network to Glasgow this week and look forward to important discussions on building the network as an important platform to improve the professionalism of guardians and the lives of separated children arriving in Europe . The young people we work with are at the heart of what we do and we look forward to sharing that expertise with our colleagues from across Europe.”

Catriona MacSween, Scottish Guardianship Service Manager at Aberlour:

“In Scotland we have seen the huge benefits that guardianship can bring to ensuring children and young people, often traumatised through their experiences, fully understand and are empowered to engage with complexities of the UK’s asylum and trafficking identification systems and to receive protection. Approximately three out of four young people have been recognised as needing international protection with the support of guardians. As one young person recently said to us, “When I arrived here I was broken My guardian put me back together. She was the glue”.

Interested members of the public are invited to a panel discussion on “The Situation of Separated Children in Europe” on Tuesday 24th, 6pm at The Lighthouse in Glasgow. This event is free but ticketed.

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew