Byline: SHARON WARD
CHILD refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland's cities are living as prisoners in their own homes, suffering racist taunts and stone attacks every time they venture outside.
Traumatised by the atrocities they witnessed in their home countries, the youngsters fled to Scotland in the hope of starting a new life in freedom and peace.
But for many, life has been made unbearable because of the bullying and violence they face.
The abuse includes stones being thrown at them in the street, even at one refugee baby.
Air rifles have been fired and windows broken as the kids are subjected to shouting, swearing, being chased home and beatings.
Despite this, the youngsters still say they love Scotland and are very glad to be living here.
Their suffering is revealed in a damning report by Save The Children Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council, which claims almost every child has faced hostility and racist abuse since arriving in Scotland.
Both charities are calling on the Scottish Executive to establish a cross-departmental working group on refugee and asylum issues.
Among those who have sought refuge in Scotland are children from Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Georgia, Estonia and Chile.
Sue Fisher, Assistant Director at Save the Children Scotland, said: "These children are children first and refugees and asylum seekers second.
"They are children who have already been through far too much by way of war, displacement, suffering and trauma and they deserve our welcome and our support, yet many continue to suffer in other ways even when they reach the seemingly safe haven of our country.
"We believe they should have the same rights as other children and, in a country famed for its hospitality, a chance for a happy and safe childhood in Scotland."
Sadly, too often that is not the case.
One refugee, Mary, 12, from Sudan, said: "A few days ago, my brothers went for a walk and were beaten up. Now we are scared to leave the house."
Jane, 13, from Kosovo, said: "Scotland is nice, but when I feel like going out to play or for a walk, I can't go, since people throw stones at us, swear at us and harass us.
"We used to live with dignity in our country, but circumstances forced us to come here."
The heart-breaking testimony of these children dispels the myth that the majority of refugees and asylum seekers are bogus, coming here because, in William Hague's words, they see Britain as a soft touch.
Many of the refugees are living in extreme poverty, with families allowed just 70 per cent of basic income support. …