As convener of Dundee City Council’s children and families service, I am proud that our city is now working to offer support to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC).
Recently, a report was unanimously approved by our committee, with comments from councillors at the meeting illustrating a united strength of feeling that Dundee should step up and do its bit.
Changes to arrangements nationally mean that our city has a chance to take responsibility and offer support and care for these young people through the National Transfer Scheme.
We are now looking to accommodate small numbers of young people aged 16-17 who have arrived in the UK as asylum seekers. These desperate young people are likely to have travelled for many months. They have experienced very difficult and traumatic living circumstances, including time spent in refugee camps, as well as separation from their families. It is horrifying to think about what they have suffered during these very difficult journeys.
In Dundee, we are moving ahead in the best way we know, as a caring city partnership. In response to changes to the National Transfer Scheme, a local working group – involving key partners from the council, NHS Tayside, further and higher education and the third sector – has been established to plan and coordinate a Dundee approach.
Our working group is liaising with other local authorities to inform the most appropriate way forward, and to identify the best accommodation options. It is particularly important that arrangements are fully trauma-informed, that young people have access to a range of supports and that they have opportunities to mix with people from their country of origin as well as integrate locally.
We already have a strong track record of helping families from Syria. The council and our partners have resettled 59 families since 2015 via the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme and Resettlement of Vulnerable Children Scheme. These families are now well integrated into the communities where they live.
I strongly believe that our city wants to continue to reach out to those who are suffering and offer shelter and support. That is why I am keen we can assist those unaccompanied young people who have suffered so much trauma in their short lives. Developments to support UASC will align with the work of our Humanitarian Protection Partnership relating to the rapidly changing emergency situation in Afghanistan.
The council has also now taken steps to offer local support to refugees by responding to the urgent request for assistance from the UK Home Office to accommodate Afghan former locally employed staff (LES). There is a real can-do attitude among our organisations and projects to help people whose lives have been devastated by catastrophic events.
Community groups have rallied around to collect clothes and supplies for refugees arriving in our city, while school pupils have joined the effort to welcome them here. Our contribution to helping unaccompanied asylum-seeking children perfectly illustrates how Dundee continues to play its part as a city with an international outlook.