SCOTLAND has witnessed an 80% surge in children arriving in the country on their own, according to a refugee service.
The Scottish Guardianship Service has reported a shocking increase in the number of traumatised, unaccompanied children referred to them over the past year.
Aged between 10-17 years old, the children have often made dangerous journeys to Scotland from places such as Afghanistan, Vietnam and Somalia.
The latest figures show a rise from 35 to 62 children since 2014, and in the past week the service has dealt with a further nine young people.
Many children become separated from their parents on the treacherous journeys, and in other cases parents have been killed, or detained in the chaos of war.
In total the service is now working with more than 120 young people, around 40% of whom may have been trafficked.
Catriona MacSween, manager of the service, has raised concerns about an increase in the number of young people found in exploitative and abusive situations including cannabis farms, brothels and nail bars.
She said: “A lot of young people arrive in Glasgow, but we have others coming from local authorities across Scotland.
“If they have been smuggled in, it may be they are dumped wherever the lorry stopped.
“A lot of the young people that we see have experienced real trauma – now they are separated from their families and it must be horrible having no-one to turn to.
“We have young people who tell us that they really are struggling because of what they have experienced, who often feel hopeless and can experience suicidal thoughts.”
The service, which is run by children’s charity Aberlour and the Scottish Refugee Council, has just a team of four guardians who provide a wide range of support.
MacSween says that more guardians are needed, as well as better access to supported accommodation or foster care placements.
She added: “Separated young people need nurtured and supported in the same way as any other teenager, particularly when they face so much uncertainty about their future.
“After all, it is only what you would want for your own children – to be looked after and kept safe.”
A recent FOI found that many councils across the UK are struggling to cope with the influx of separated child asylum seekers, with an average increase in numbers of 55%.
In response to pressures on councils in the south east of England, the Home Office is proposing to relocate young people throughout the UK including Scotland.