First Minister defends right of orphan, 13, to remain in Scotland

Scotland's First Minister has called for a teenage orphan to be granted permission to stay in the UK permanently.

Nicola Sturgeon said Giorgi Kakava is "Scottish" as far as she is concerned and should be allowed to stay in the country with his grandmother, Ketino Baikhadze, for as long as he wants.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The 13-year-old's residence permit expired in December and once again he faces the threat of being removed from his home in Glasgow and deported to Georgia, a former Soviet republic, a country he has not seen since the age of three.

Giorgi's case was raised during First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament today by Bob Doris, MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn.

He asked: "Does the First Minister agree that the Home Office should move quickly to end the uncertainty over their future and confirm the right of Giorgi and his grandmother to stay in Scotland permanently?

Ms Sturgeon replied: "Yes, I do.

"I hope everyone in this chamber will agree, Giorgi is, as far as I am concerned, Scottish.

"This is his home and he should get to stay here for as long as he wants to be here with his grandmother.

"Giorgi and his grandmother are just one of many families that fall victim to a UK Government policy that sees family migration as some kind of burden on society.

"We want to see a very different approach, we have set out our own policies for a much more compassionate and flexible approach to cases, particularly cases involving young people.

"Children who were either born in Scotland or have spent their formative years here should have the opportunity to stay here with their adult guardians."

Giorgi Kakava
Giorgi Kakava in the garden at Springburn Parish Church.

Ms Sturgeon said it is the "right" decision and in Scotland's best interests.

"We are a country that needs to encourage people to come here and make a contribution to our society and our economy," she told MSPs.

"So we should be making it easier for people like Giorgi to stay here, not more difficult."

Giorgi and his mother, Sopio Baikhadze, fled to Glasgow in 2011 because she feared that gangsters whom her late husband owed a debt to would either kill him or sell him to sex traffickers.

The 35-year-old, who worked as a freelance translator and spoke multiple languages, was awaiting the outcome of an appeal for asylum when she passed away after a long illness in early 2018.

Sopio and Giorgi
Giorgi and his mother, Sopio.

It was her dying wish that her son remained in Glasgow and continued to grow up a "Scottish boy".

Giorgi was only granted permission to stay in the UK along with his grandmother and legal guardian in July 2018, after the Church of Scotland launched a high-profile campaign.

Nearly 92,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Giorgi to be allowed to stay in the UK.

Rev Brian Casey, minister of Springburn Parish Church in Glasgow, has been supporting Giorgi since his mother's death and conducted a Georgian style funeral service for her.

He said: "I am pleased that the First Minister has reiterated her support for the long running campaign to ensure that Giorgi is allowed to remain in his home city of Glasgow with his grandmother on a permanent basis.

"The Home Office granted him and his grandmother residency permits for 30-months each but they have now expired and now we have a second-year high school pupil living on borrowed time, which is frankly horrendous."

"Granting him permission to stay in the UK on a permanent basis is the right decision and I hope people will continue to sign the petition to send a very clear message to the Home Secretary.

"This case is about decency and compassion, it is about justice and sending a clear message that we value people, regardless of where they were born."

Rev Brian Casey
Rev Brian Casey

Earlier this week, Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People's Commissioner for Children, said the best interests of a child must be at the heart of decision making.

"Where a child has spent the majority of their childhood in Scotland, it is unlikely to be in their best interests to return them to a country they have limited or no memory of."

Giorgi's case has once again been taken on by immigration lawyer, Andrew Bradley, who is currently in the process of preparing a new residence application for both him and his grandmother.

Church of Scotland congregations across the country work hard to support vulnerable people on the fringes of society and provide a voice for the voiceless.

St Rollox Church in Sighthill, a few miles from Springburn, has been at the forefront of supporting thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from countries including Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq for nearly 20 years.Donate to Springburn Parish Church