Glasgow & West Scotland

Child refugee has 'no help, no school'

Image caption Ahmed said he has had no schooling for three years

BBC Scotland has learned an unaccompanied Syrian child refugee who was brought to Scotland has no access to school or a social worker.

In the first interview with a Syrian child who has travelled here alone, Ahmed, 15, said he had not been offered any help from Glasgow City Council.

He joined his uncle in the city almost two months ago, but appears to have "slipped through the net".

He had spent a year in the Calais migrant camp known as the "Jungle".

The local authority said it would try to rectify the situation as "quickly as possible".

Ahmed has not been to school for three years after so-called Islamic State invaded his home city of Raqqa.

Image caption Many refugees have fled the violence in Syria

He was brought to Scotland under the EU's Dublin regulation, which allows unaccompanied refugee children to be placed in a country where they have a relative who can be responsible for their care.

Local authorities in the UK have a duty to provide unaccompanied children with a case worker and access to education.

Glasgow City Council said they would be working with Ahmed and his family.

A spokesman said: "We are fully committed to delivering positive outcomes for this vulnerable group of young people.

"We aim to support them to integrate successfully into their new communities and access to education is a key part of that effort.

"Whenever an issue is identified with an individual case we will look to rectify that issue as quickly as possible."

Image caption Ahmed told the BBC he has not been helped by the local authority since arriving in Glasgow

Scotland has been praised for "leading the way" in efforts to resettle refugees by Westminster's Home Affairs select committee.

Kirsty McNeill, director of policy, advocacy and campaigns for Save The Children, said people should not lose confidence in Scotland's level of care for refugees as a result.

She said: "We were extremely disappointed to hear this because we don't think it is very common.

"In fact, we've held up Scotland as a beacon in how child refugees can be integrated and so we were surprised to hear it and disappointed. But we don't think anyone should lose confidence in the system as a result of it."

Scotland has welcomed 1,200 Syrian refugees in the past 12 months under the UK's resettlement programme.

The UK as a whole is committed to resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees through its Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme by 2020.


Ahmed's story

Image caption A refugee camp in Calais became home for thousands of refugees

Ahmed was 14 years old when he began the journey from Raqqa in Syria to Glasgow.

In the first interview with an unaccompanied Syrian child refugee, Ahmed tells Fiona Walker from BBC Scotland's Investigation Unit why he decided to make the dangerous journey alone.

"There was continuous air bombing and we were living under Daesh rule. They scared us. It was awful. I was so afraid. I stayed indoors all the time. They were horrible people, they tortured, imprisoned and beheaded many people."

His parents could not afford to send the whole family away, so they decided Ahmed would leave Raqqa with his father's cousin.

"l left Syria for Turkey at 2am. We crossed the border and after we crossed the barrier, the Turkish soldier shot into the air and caught us. They took me to a kind of prison - like a place for animals - a concrete circle with barbed wire - there were about 2000 people detained inside it, it was so overcrowded."

They were returned to Syria, where they met a smuggler. They travelled to Greece by boat, made their way across Macedonia, ending up at the notorious "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, where Ahmed was separated from his father's cousin.

"I stayed in Calais a year and seven days. It was freezing," he says.

"They gave us a tent and blankets, then we set up a wooden room to keep us from the cold. We tried many times to cross to the UK in a lorry. I have injuries but the scars have faded away.

"These," he says showing his hands, "are from when I tried to climb the four-meter fence with barbed wire to cross into the seaport."

"Then an organisation asked me to bring my documents to help me enter the UK."

Ahmed joined his uncle in Glasgow, but since arriving in the city two months ago he says he has received no support from the city council.

"No one is helping me in Scotland," he says.

Ahmed is thankful he has found refuge, but fears for his family back home.

"My family are living in Raqqa in a dangerous situation. My father has escaped to another city now because he is wanted by ISIS and they want to execute him because he was a cigarette-seller.

"I haven't seen my family for about 14 months, I miss them so much and I dream of seeing them again."

Image caption Some unaccompanied children have been allowed to travel from the "Jungle" camp to the UK