Children seeking asylum face “inhumane” delays to find out if they can stay in the UK after a six-month target for handling applications was ditched by the Tory government at Westminster.
Figures obtained by the SNP under FOI show that last year 3,500 under-18s were forced to wait up to five years for an initial decision on their asylum claim.
This compares with 406 seven years ago.
The number of children waiting up to a year for a decision rose from 308 in 2014 to 1,232 in 2020.
A UK government target of processing claims within 182 days was abandoned two years ago by the Home Office.
Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said the UK government “is failing some of the most vulnerable children in the world, other charities warned that the lengthy wait can leave some “struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Ruth Maguire said:
“These figures are deeply concerning.
“Forcing thousands of children and young people to wait in limbo for months on end, or in some cases years, for news on their asylum decision is completely inhumane.
“Sadly, this is what we have come to expect from the Tories and their hostile environment.
“This Tory government has an abysmal track record and a long history of treating asylum seekers with contempt rather than humanity – yet it has ignored concerns raised by the SNP and others, and repeatedly refused to devolve immigration powers to the Scottish Parliament.
“As an independent nation, Scotland can be a country which opens its doors to the world’s most vulnerable children, treating them with the dignity, compassion and respect they deserve.”