Kirk campaign launched for teen orphan facing second deportation threat

A Church of Scotland minister has made a fresh appeal for a teenage orphan to be granted permission to stay in the UK permanently.

Rev Brian Casey said it was a "scandal and a moral outrage" that Giorgi Kakava - who arrived in Glasgow aged three - is still living under a cloud of uncertainty.

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

The 13-year-old's residence permit expired on December 28 and once again he faces the threat of being removed from his home and deported to Georgia, a former Soviet republic.

He was only granted permission to stay in the UK along with his grandmother and legal guardian, Ketino Baikhadze, in July 2018, after the Church of Scotland launched a high-profile campaign, which resulted in more than 90,000 people signing an online petition.

The call for action comes as members of the Scottish Parliament prepare to vote on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, this afternoon.

Mr Casey, minister of Springburn Parish Church in Glasgow, said: "When it became clear that the orphaned son of an asylum seeker faced being sent back to the country that he was taken away from for his own safety when he was three, I launched an online petition in protest.

"More than 90,000 people signed it and sent a clear message to the UK Government that it was unthinkable to deport a grieving 10-year-old boy to a country that he has no memory of and that he must be allowed to remain in his home in Glasgow.

"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."

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.

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

Sopio Baikhadze
Mother and son - Sopio and Giorgi.

Mr Casey and Father John McGrath of St Aloysius Church conducted a Georgian style funeral for Sopio at Springburn Parish Church.

Her body was repatriated to Georgia for burial and a memorial tree was planted in the church garden.

Human rights issue

Mr Casey, who is a chaplain at Giorgi's old primary school and high school, said: "Jesus himself was a refugee and the Church stands with all those who have no home and who lack hope.

"We are called to hold those in power to account for their decisions and to show that there are human lives at stake.

"This is a human rights issue and I hope people will sign the petition and join me in urging Home Secretary Priti Patel to look at this case with compassion, decency and common sense.

"After Giorgi's mother died, the local community rallied around him and the outpouring of love and concern was overwhelming.

"Despite having a very tough start to life, he has grown into a fine young man and I have been so inspired by his progress.

"He loves football, boxing and is good at maths and science.

"Giorgi is a delight to be around and I fully believe that if we support him now, he will become an asset to our country in the future."

Rev Brian Casey
Rev Brian Casey

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland, said: "Before decisions are made about a child's immigration and asylum status, their human rights and best interests must be at the heart of decision making.

"Decisions should take into account the impact on the full range of the child's human rights, including rights to an education, to respect for private and family life, and to mental health, as well as their ability to adjust to life in what is, to them, a foreign country.

"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 preparing a new residence application for both him and his grandmother, 62.

Asset to Scotland

Dr Tracy Kirk, a children's rights expert at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: "Scotland has ambitions to be the best place in the world to grow up.

"Giorgi has enjoyed growing up here and wants to make this his permanent home.

"I really do hope that his human rights are central to the decision-making process which will determine his future.

"Giorgi is an asset to his community and to our country."

The schoolboy avoided deportation in 2018 after Paul Sweeney, former MP for Glasgow North East, and Bob Doris, MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn, raised his plight in the House of Commons and Scottish Parliament respectively.

Voice for the voiceless

The petition was handed over to officials at the Visa and Immigration Centre in Glasgow, the Scottish Government made representations and the then Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a Home Office review.

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.