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Legislators’ perceptions of unaccompanied children seeking asylum
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Child and Youth Studies.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Child and Youth Studies.
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, ISSN 1747-9894, E-ISSN 2042-8650, Vol. 11, no 4, 239-252 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to explore how individual legislators perceive unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, their life situation, needs and best interests.

Design/methodology/approach– The total number of participants were 15. Thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) was used in order to identify and analyze patterns in the interview data. The authors focused on their responses to the questions about the best interest of the child in migration policy and practice, and how this principle was related to unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

Findings– The main finding is that chronological age becomes a key sign for how legislators understand the life situation, needs and best interests of unaccompanied children. Also, the findings from this study suggest that the moralizing welfare ideology of the past is still present in political discourse and social planning, construing unaccompanied minors as an ambivalent category between civilization and savagery. The findings from this study indicate that legislators enact reforms of importance for unaccompanied children without considering them as agents of their own future, with their own motives and reasons to seek asylum.

Practical implications– The findings from this study indicate a need to adapt the understanding of the existing Aliens Act (SFS 2005:716) to the knowledge that unaccompanied minors need to be assessed on their own terms.

Originality/value– This study contributes to increasing the understanding about how the subjective values of legislators may have influenced migration reform in Sweden that can be valuable to both legal and social research, as well as policy planners.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 11, no 4, 239-252 p.
Keyword [en]
Child protection, Childhood, Child care, Age assessments, Asylum policy, Unaccompanied minors
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-120295DOI: 10.1108/IJMHSC-08-2014-0033OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-120295DiVA: diva2:851530
Available from: 2015-09-06 Created: 2015-09-06 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Drawing the limits: Unaccompanied minors in Swedish asylum policy and procedure
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Drawing the limits: Unaccompanied minors in Swedish asylum policy and procedure
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall aim of the thesis is to explore legislators’ perceptions of unaccompanied children in the development of migration law, and how case-officers transform the policy in arguments for and against residency in asylum-cases.

More specifically, this thesis explores how Swedish legislators experienced parliamentary work when putting in place the 2005 Aliens Act and the new system for appeals and procedures. In addition, it explores legislators understanding of the concept of unaccompanied minors, and how the Swedish Migration Agency (SMA) case-officers understand unaccompanied minors’ credibility. It draws on interview data with 15 legislators of the Swedish parliament and an analysis of 916 decisions in asylum cases concerning unaccompanied minors. The thesis is theoretically informed by interpretative phenomenology and social constructionism. The method used builds on detailed coding procedures in qualitative social research as they are applied in interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), thematic analysis and text analysis.

Study 1 examines the experiences of 15 legislators when negotiating migration reform in parliament. The findings indicate that the preceding political negotiations can be one of the reasons for unclear aims when politicians’ propose new legislation. In addition, it seems that other policy areas, such as fiscal considerations and state-municipality relations, took precedence in the negotiations when the legislators were attempting to make sense of their experiences in discussing asylum policy.

Study 2 explores legislators’ perceptions of unaccompanied minors arriving in Sweden. The findings show that chronological age is a key reference point concerning how legislators understand unaccompanied minors’ claims for asylum and other needs. In addition, the findings suggest that legislators perceive unaccompanied minors as an ambivalent category and that this understanding is influenced by deep-rooted welfare ideology. Furthermore, the findings indicate that legislators develop policy concerning unaccompanied children without considering that they need to be recognised as individuals with different backgrounds, agendas and needs.

Study 3 scrutinises how SMA case-officers construct unaccompanied minors credibility in asylum decisions. It shows that case-officers use similar techniques both when approving and rejecting decisions. These techniques consistently question the competence and political agency of the chid in such a way that the element of individual assessment in asylum procedure can become severely restricted.

In brief, this thesis identifies that the connection between migration and child policy is complex as legislators appear to struggle with “drawing the limits” of who to include or exclude in policy aims. Hence, the juridical field was seen as the answer to improve legitimation. This also means that the concept of asylum has become de-politicised. In addition, case-officers also seem to use a limited repertoire of arguments when drawing the limits for unaccompanied minors’ credibility in asylum decisions. This thesis points to possible dilemmas in asylum policy and procedure concerning unaccompanied minors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Child and Youth Studies. Stockholm University, 2016. 115 p.
Keyword
unaccompanied minors, separated minors, refugees, asylum policy, child policy, legislators, migration reform, legislative intent, juridification, perceptions, adolescent, age assessment, immigration agency, credibility, evidence assessment
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-127091 (URN)978-91-7649-335-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-04-15, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Accepted. Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2016-03-21 Created: 2016-02-24 Last updated: 2017-02-17Bibliographically approved

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