Gary Christie: A warm welcome is just the start of the recovery processed for traumatised child refugees

Edinburgh will be welcoming migrant children. Picture: GETTY
Edinburgh will be welcoming migrant children. Picture: GETTY
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At last this week there’s been a glimmer of hope for some of the children trapped in the Calais refugee camp. The news that Edinburgh, Glasgow and potentially other Scottish councils are to receive small numbers of young people can only be welcomed.

2016 has been a terrible year for families in countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, torn apart and forced from their homes by widespread violence and human rights abuses. There are now more refugees and displaced people in the world than at any time since the Second World War, and around half of these people are children.

We know from our work with young people that it is terrifying to be a child and to find your home, family, school and everything else that was familiar to you destroyed before your eyes. It must be devastating to realise that there is no one to care for you, to be suddenly alone in a violent world with threats at every turn.

So for those young people coming to Scotland we say welcome. And we know that many people across the country join with us in this.

But the children’s arrival and reception here is just the start of their journey to recovering from all they have been through. We must continue the way in which we have treated young refugees in Scotland by seeing them as children first and foremost and supporting them as such. However these children will need additional specialist support. They will need ongoing care over a number of years and specialist services to help them come to terms with their past experiences. Legal advice, language support and specialist health care must all be in place to give these young people every chance to go on and flourish in Scotland.

This refugee crisis can feel totally overwhelming. The numbers of people affected are in the tens of millions, the reasons for the conflicts forcing people from their homes are so complex and there are few solutions in sight. But the way we respond will define us for future generations.

Gary Christie is head of policy at the Scottish Refugee Council