Orphaned son of asylum seeker granted indefinite leave to remain after Church campaign

Giorgi Kakava with a tree planted in memory of his mother, who died in 2018 while awaiting the outcome of an asylum application.(Photo: Church of Scotland)

The Home Office has listened to the appeals of the Church of Scotland and others, and told a 13-year-old orphan he can stay in the UK permanently.

Giorgi Kakava, who lived with the threat of deportation for 10 years, said a "big weight" had been lifted off his shoulders. 

Originally from Georgia, in the Caucasus region, his mother Sopio Baikhadze fled the country with him in 2011.

She feared her son, who was only three at the time, would be killed or sold to sex traffickers by gangsters because her late husband owed them money.

Finding refuge in Glasgow, she was awaiting the outcome of an asylum application when she tragically died after a long illness in 2018. 

Before passing away, she expressed her wish for her son to remain in Scotland and grow up a "Scottish boy".

The Church of Scotland took up his case and launched a national campaign led by Springburn Parish Church minister, the Rev Brian Casey, who lobbied the UK and Scottish governments on his behalf. 

Giorgi's case garnered the support of politicians and the public alike, with an online petition being signed by over 90,000 people. 

Commenting on the Home Office's decision, Giorgi said, "I was very excited when I heard that I have been granted permanent residency and can continue staying here.

"It is good news because Glasgow is my home, I feel Scottish and If I got moved to Georgia it would be tough to cope without all my friends."

But he expressed sadness and disappointment that his grandmother, Ketino Baikhadze, who lives with him in Scotland, has only been granted 30 months' leave to remain and could still be forced to return to Georgia. 

"The decision is very unfair on my nan because we are very close and I do not know what I would do if she was sent away," he said. 

Rev Casey said the Church would continue to support Giorgi and his grandmother as they fight for her to be allowed to stay permanently as well. 

"It has been a long fight but it would have been criminal to send him back to a country that he doesn't know where he could be in danger. But it does seem wrong that his gran, who is his guardian, will have to go through this whole protracted process again when he is 15 and still a minor," he said.

"So, as we move forward we will have to keep an eye on that because it would be a travesty if they are split up."

Bob Doris, MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn, who secured the support of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, criticised the Home Office for not making its decision sooner.

"Much heartache and worry could have been avoided some time ago had the Home Office simply moved quickly to provide certainty for Giorgi and his gran," he said.

"Such a protracted process benefits no one."