Recent media and political coverage of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Calais, and other children on the move across Europe, has highlighted the potential vulnerability of separated children. The experience of local authorities in Scotland of working with separated children is developing, and they are building on many years of experience of working with vulnerable children. This knowledge and experience is invaluable; however, we cannot assume that it can be uncritically applied to care for children who may have additional and/or different needs due to their ‘unaccompanied’ status. Despite improving practice in Scotland there has been little opportunity for reflection in the development of responses regarding the needs and experiences of separated children who arrive in the country. Aspirations to prioritise a human rights model to work with separated children within a wider discourse of ‘vulnerable people’ on the move has frequently been overtaken by law enforcement, border control priorities and media hyperbole.

The programme aimed to provide the opportunity to explore the various ways unaccompanied minors are framed within policy and guidance, a framing that informs understanding and responses. In this context, the programme aimed to identify existing systems in place to support and work with separated children and the policy, practice, legal and conceptual frameworks around this. At this time in Scotland, when the country is looking to assert its own identity within the UK and Europe, the programme was particularly relevant in exploring how Scotland can provide a more welcoming and supportive environment for children on the move.

The main aims and objectives of the programme were built around two key questions:

  • What are the conceptual, definitional and political issues that affect understanding of the needs and motivations of children on the move?
  • What national and international legislation, guidelines, knowledge and evidence underpins current responses and support for separated children?

Programme Team

Dr Paul Rigby, University of Stirling
Professor Daniela Sime, University of Strathclyde
Professor Ravi Kohli, University of Bedfordshire
Catriona Macsween, Scottish Guardianship System
Mirren Kelly, CoSLA
Marion Macleod, Children in Scotland
Keith Moore Milne, Glasgow City Council