The gap between legal protection, good intentions and political restrictions. Unaccompanied minors in Norway


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University of Duisburg-Essen, Center for Social Work and Social Policy

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The Norwegian policy on UAM is ambivalent. On the one hand, Norway has promoted a high profile on human rights in general, and especially on children’s rights. Norway was the first country to establish the Ombudsman for Children in 1981. The UN Convention of the Right of the Child (CRC) was ratified by Norway in 1991 as one of the first countries in the world. The CRC was implemented as one of five human rights conventions into national legislation in 2003. The Immigration Act of 2008 applied child sensitive measures. Increasing flux and flows of migrants have, on the other hand, led to several restrictions in the immigration law and practice, with substantial consequences for UAM. The aim of the article is to explore these ambiguities and changes in regulations, with regard to the gap between restrictions, new policies and practice on the one side, and the human rights standards set forward in the CRC, the Norwegian Constitution and the intentions behind the Immigration Act’s child-sensitive approach on the other. An unaccompanied asylum-seeking minor is a person younger than 18 years old who arrives in a country without parents or other legal guardians and applies for protection. [1] In previous years, approximately 10 % of all asylum applicants in Norway were reported to be UAM. More than five times as many applicants arrived in 2015 than in 2014, including more UAM younger than 15 years old. In 2016 the number decreased, due to the EU agreement with Turkey, stricter border controls in many European countries and new and stricter regulations in Norway. About 85 % of the UAM applicants were boys (see Table 1). Over the past ten years, the largest groups of UAM came from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia. In 2015, 10 % of the UAM came from Syria. The challenges for UAM in the phase of asylum and resettlement are numerous. They have to comprehend and adjust to the asylum procedure, including giving sufficient and adequate information in the asylum interview, to live with uncertainty when waiting for the case to be assessed. Their health condition varies, but most UAM have undergone difficulties before and during their journey, in addition to loss and the feeling of being on their own (Jacobsen et al. 2014; Jensen et al. 2014; Seglem 2012). They encounter several barriers (language etc.) when resettling in a new country. Before arrival, most minors have discontinuous education, and they need to finish primary education (Lidén et al. 2013; Pastoor 2015). The article is based on six research projects, each carried out by one of the authors or as collaborating projects (Stang 2012; Lidén 2012; Lidén et al. 2013; Stang/Lidén 2014; Staver/Lidén 2014; Lidén 2017; Eide et al. forthcoming). The text combines legal analysis (human rights conventions, national laws, regulations and court cases), the analysis of the quantative data from immigration authorities to identify particular areas of concern and qualitative research including fieldwork and interviews with minors, staff in reception centers, legal guardians and the Immigration authorities.




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