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Photo Credit: Church of Scotland
Photo Credit: Church of Scotland
UK News

Sturgeon backs church's campaign to remove deportation threat facing teenage orphan

by Cara Bentley

A teenage boy being supported by the Church of Scotland now also has the backing of the First Minister to stay in Scotland. 

Giorgi Kakava, 13, has lived in Glasgow since he was three years old, after fleeing with his mother from Georgia. 

He and his mother, Sopio Baikhadze, left the country in 2011 because she feared that gangsters, who her late husband owed a debt to, would either kill her son or sell him to sex traffickers.

Once in Scotland, she worked as a translator and was awaiting the outcome of an asylum appeal when she died after a long illness in early 2018. 

Giorgi was only granted permission to stay in the UK with his grandmother and legal guardian in July 2018, after the Church of Scotland launched a high-profile campaign but the 13-year-old's residence permit then expired in December 2020. 

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.

His case was raised during First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament this week 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."

Rev Brian Case 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."

Giorgi's case has 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.

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."

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