Catriona MacSween: Remember the refugee children who miss their mothers

Happily, many of us will have made a fuss over our mums yesterday, a day to appreciate all they have done for us. Some of us have lost our mum and Mother's Day will have been bittersweet, a day full of memories.
Scotlands hidden children need our help, guidance and support. Picture: GettyScotlands hidden children need our help, guidance and support. Picture: Getty
Scotlands hidden children need our help, guidance and support. Picture: Getty

For more than 150 children in Scotland, however – children who arrived in this country alone, some seeking a safe haven, others brought here against their will – Mother’s Day was just another day in a strange country, far from home and far from their mums.

Of course, they think about their families often, every day, but many have not spoken to their mothers, often last seen in some of the world’s most dangerous countries, for years. Many do not know if their mums, dads, brothers and sisters are alive or dead.

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Any adult arriving in a strange country, not knowing a soul, and unable to speak the language, would feel fearful, uncertain and very alone. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for children, to arrive unaccompanied, in a strange country with no one to turn to and no one to care.

These children have none of the building blocks of a life, the foundations of childhood, that most of us take for granted. They are some of Scotland’s hidden children and are in danger of falling through the cracks. We must all help make sure that does not happen.

They are children like Xuan. She was 13 when she was trafficked into Scotland and forced to work as a domestic slave. She was growing up happily in Vietnam before her father was arrested. Her mother, fearing for their safety, took her and fled. People who were supposed to help them escape put the girl on a lorry and she was told her mum would join her soon. She never did.

Four years later, having escaped her life of exploitation, Xuan is at college now and one of the young people helped by a service run by children’s charity Aberlour, in partnership with the Scottish Refugee Council.

We offer these children a designated, specially-trained guardian, a helping hand. Someone they can rely on for help, guidance and support.

We explain what is happening to them as they enter the care system. We listen to them, and take account of their views and experience, and we speak up for them whenever they need a voice raised to support them.

Since the service began six years ago, we have helped more than 350 children and young people, who have fled terror in their own countries or been brought to Scotland against their will.

The number of young people referred to the service has soared by 200 per cent in two years and include children from 31 countries, speaking 34 different languages. Two fifths of them have been trafficked, brought here unwillingly, tricked or abducted, and sold into a life of slavery and exploitation.

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Mother’s Day is a time to remember our own mums but we should not forget all of the children in Scotland, who remember their mums every day and wonder where they are.

Catriona MacSween, of Aberlour children’s charity and service manager at the Scottish Guardianship Service

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