A 10-year-old orphan who is seeking asylum in Glasgow would be “under threat” if he returned to his native Georgia, the minister leading the campaign to prevent his deportation said.
Church of Scotland minister Reverend Brian Casey launched a petition to help keep Giorgi Kakava in Scotland on Thursday, with more than 50,000 people having signed it in the last three days.
The youngster was just three when he fled Georgia with his mother Sopio Baikhadze, after she discovered his father - who later died - owed money to gangsters there.
The minister, who met the boy at primary school, became more involved with helping him when his mother - who was known as Sophie - died in February after suffering a “long and painful illness”.
Rev Casey, of Springburn Parish Church, said: “I conducted her funeral and have been supporting Giorgi ever since.
READ MORE: Campaign to save 10-year-old Glasgow orphan from deportation
“Sophie was in the middle of an asylum application when she died and this has left Giorgi at threat of deportation to a country he doesn’t know and a language he cannot speak.”
The minister said: “Giorgi came here after his mother discovered that his father owed money to gangsters. They threatened Georgi’s life and his mum Sophie fled Georgia and came to Glasgow.
“I have known Giorgi since he went to the primary school I am the chaplain for and he is a gentle, thoughtful, intelligent and funny boy. A typical 10-year-old Scottish boy.”
He added: “Giorgi is, to all intents and purposes, Scottish and is doing well at his primary school. If he was returned to Georgia against his will, he would be under threat.”
Giorgi’s grandmother Ketino Baikhadze, who is also seeking asylum in Glasgow, also fears his life would be in danger if he returned to Georgia, the minister said.
He described the support for the Celtic-supporting schoolboy as “incredible”, and added: “My heart is warmed to know that despite the current climate regarding immigration, we can still show love and compassion to those who come here from other places.”
Communities Secretary Angela Constance said: “This is a tragic situation, and it is heart-breaking to hear what Giorgi has been through.
“However, it is encouraging to hear how the community has rallied round to support Giorgi at this difficult time.
“We believe that people seeking asylum must be treated with dignity and respect at all times and must receive the support they need to ensure that their cases are fairly assessed.
“Under an asylum system that remains reserved, there needs to be a more humane, compassionate and common-sense approach that recognises individual circumstances, especially where children are involved.
“We call on the UK Government to urgently review Giorgi’s case.”
Glasgow MSP and Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “As far as I’m concerned he’s just as Glaswegian as me or anyone else in this city, and Giorgi and his grandmother deserve the right to live permanently in the place they call home.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its individual merits.”