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Asylum seekers fear agencies will take away their children

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​Report describes how desperate asylum seekers don't trust the system

Asylum seekers are failing to request support from local authorities and charities for fear their youngsters will be taken away from them.

A report by the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) found that trust in the child protection system had been eroded by myth and misinformation.

It meant asylum seekers, many of whom are destitute, were being pushed into further problems because they feared the support agencies would take away their children instead of helping them.

In its report it stated: “This fear and distrust of services was explained to come from families’ experiences of state intervention in their countries of origin and also from stories circulating within minority communities in Scotland of children being removed from their parents.

"Both of these concerns have some basis, and are particularly real amongst those seeking asylum or of uncertain immigration status."

A survey undertaken by the SCRA suggested minorities also did not engage because of language barriers and unfamiliarity with the way Scottish authorities worked.

"The perception that services are racist or culturally insensitive was the barrier rated lowest, although it was acknowledged to exist," the survey noted.

"The more significant barrier to services intervening to protect a child were difficulties in finding out when a child was at risk due to the insular nature of some communities."

Clara Reid, who manages a refugee outreach project in Glasgow’s Royston, said losing their children was asylum seekers' biggest fear.

“Many have risked their lives to protect their children, fleeing very dangerous places to come here to safety. It’s understandable that after staking so much for the safety of their children, they fear that could be compromised.

“Rebuilding trust remains a challenge but it can be achieved if we are able to make contact with them. The problem is fear pushes them into hiding and these desperate people won’t make themselves known to organisations like ours.”

An SCRA spokeswoman said: "This piece of research highlights some of the real concerns and fears of families new to this country, as well as some of our marginalised communities in Scotland.

"We hope the report will lead to a better understanding among these families of the Children’s Hearings System, which is there to protect and safeguard vulnerable and at risk children.

"We will work with our partners to take the recommendations in the report forward."