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Safeguarding a Child Perspective in Asylum Reception: Dilemmas of Children's Case Workers in Sweden
Nordic School of Public Health, Sweden .
2013 (English)In: The Journal of Refugee Studies, ISSN 0951-6328, E-ISSN 1471-6925, Vol. 26, no 2, 247-264 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article examines the perceptions and practices of Children’s Case Workers (CCW), employed at the Swedish Migration Board to safeguard children’s interests within the Swedish asylum reception system. The extensive discretionary powers that CCWs enjoy in interpreting and implementing policies are of particular significance. This qualitative study highlights the challenges experienced by CCWs at a regional branch, in their position at the intersection between conflicting policy objectives, and given the contradictions inherent in their professional role as street-level bureaucrats. It outlines the strategies employed by CCWs to manage contradiction and ambiguity, such as adapting to organizational pressures and restrictive norms, and exercising restraint in using their discretionary powers, but also finding ways of resisting when the discord between established practice and personal ethics becomes too great. These strategies shape the ways in which policy gets implemented in everyday practice. While a boost to the new image of the Migration Board as an institution promoting human rights, the CCWs find it difficult to implement children’s rights in the proactive ways envisioned. As a result, in CCWs’ experience, rather than being placed at the centre, children tend to be deported to the margins of daily organizational practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 26, no 2, 247-264 p.
Keyword [en]
asylum-seeking, children, child perspective, street-level bureaucracy, discretion
National Category
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-126287DOI: 10.1093/jrs/fes024OAI: diva2:898717
Available from: 2016-01-29 Created: 2016-01-29 Last updated: 2016-02-03Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Utan given hemvist: Barnperspektiv i den svenska asylprocessen
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Utan given hemvist: Barnperspektiv i den svenska asylprocessen
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
In Search of a Home : Children in the Swedish Asylum-Seeking Process
Abstract [en]

The thesis examines accompanied asylum-seeking children’s position in Swedish asylum reception management and in the determination of their claims. The three articles of the thesis focus on children’s own experiences of seeking asylum, on the experiences and practices of the civil servants at the Migration Board, as well as those of the legal representatives that assist asylum-seekers in the application process. The thesis builds on ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 2008 and 2010 in southwest Sweden. Theoretical inspiration has been sought in the new sociology of childhood as well as in practice theory.

The first article in the thesis concerns children’s caseworkers who are responsible for safeguarding children’s interests in the Migration Board’s daily work with reception. The study highlights a range of dilemmas caseworkers have to deal with in their role as frontline bureaucrats. The study shows that the children’s caseworkers often perceive their discretion as limited, but also that they themselves contribute to limiting it, for example due to their hesitation in challenging existing norms and collegiality.   

The second article examines the ways in which legal representatives, who act on behalf of families in asylum determinations, in their practice perceive and relate to the concept of children’s best interests and children’s right to participate. The study shows that children in families can become invisible in the legal representatives’ daily rounds. This invisibility is due to practical limitations in the representatives’ work as well as a general view that children rarely have their own grounds for asylum, as separate claimants to their parents.

The third paper of the thesis explores the ways in which children experience and seek to influence circumstances that signify their time spent as asylum-seekers. The study shows how the children developed a range of tactics to deal with their particular situations, which varied with their housing and schooling, and the family’s financial resources. The conclusion is that the children themselves are the primary representatives of the child perspective in the asylum-seeking process, not least through their struggle to belong and create a life like that of ’ordinary’ children. 

In line with previous research in the field, the thesis points to the contradiction between the principle of regulated migration and the child perspective in the asylum-seeking process. Together with practical circumstances, such as lack of resources, this contradiction results in a more limited implementation of the child perspective than rules and regulations actually stipulate. Finally, the thesis points to the active role asylum-seeking children take in their efforts to create an everyday life that is as similar as possible to that of  the ’ordinary’ children (e.g. non asylum-seeker and permanently settled children) around them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Barn- och ungdomsvetenskapliga institutionen, Stockholms universitet, 2016. 100 p.
agency, asylum, asylum-seeking, child perspective, children, children's perspectives, discretion, legal aid, liminality, participation, personal projects, place, representation, street-level bureaucracy, tactics, Agens, asyl, asylsökande, barn, barnperspektiv, barns perspektiv, deltagande, frontlinjebyråkrati, handlingsutrymme, juridiska ombud, personliga projekt, plats, representation, taktiker
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-126291 (URN)978-91-7649-334-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-03-18, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Submitted.

Available from: 2016-02-24 Created: 2016-01-29 Last updated: 2016-02-29Bibliographically approved

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