STUC 2009: Along with a range of organisations we have been campaigning for several years for all children in Scotland to have the same rights and protection under the Children Scotland Act.
That glowing beacon of legislation makes the interests of all children paramount. It doesn’t differentiate between those with a passport and those without one. It was meant to protect all children.
But, as the Glasgow Girls showed us, the reality was that displaced children were second class children and their welfare was regularly undermined.
From the intervention of Jack McConnell, to the support of Children’s Commissioner Kathleen Marshall, to the principled work of the current Scottish Government and civil servants, we have come a long way.
It is a great victory for us to hear politicians from all parties nowadays referring to the child’s welfare being paramount.
It is a step forward that immigration officials now have to be disclosure checked and that the child’s welfare has to be explicitly addressed.
A long way in such a short time from a situation that should never have existed - to one that is getting better.
But there is still much to be done. Children are set up for deportation at 17, their welfare is still compromised, and that means many will end up back in the harm they were fleeing or the clutches of those who exploited them in the first place.
And that goes for adults too. If women feel rescued, why do so many disappear shortly afterwards? Are they re-captured by the gangs or do they fear the authorities more?
Are you really being rescued if your immigration status decides whether you’re supported or deported?
Do you know that it was only last October that NHS regulations were amended to allow victims to get free medical treatment?
A key element in really protecting trafficked women and children is the ‘reflection period’ in the Council of Europe Convention.
That is set at a minimum of 30 days to meet health and recovery needs, escape the influence of traffickers and make informed decisions on co-operating with authorities.
The UK has improved on that with a 45 day period and the possibility of extending it on a case by case basis.
But UNICEF and Amnesty are both calling for 90 days – still a short time to recover from trauma– but much more realistic than 45 days.
And the problem still exists that the very people who have the power to deport you are the same people who decide what help you get and how long you get it.
The government has funded some independent projects but this has to be extended to real independent advice and a review system that puts the needs of women first and the interests of children as paramount.
UNISON’s guide and the government’s own reports recognise that human beings who have been trafficked will have little cause to trust authorities. Yet too often they are penalised for that understandable suspicion.
If we are really rescuing people, we need to give them
time to regroup,
understanding and care to recover,
and most of all, independent support that puts them first.
Please support the motion.