Drawing the limits Unaccompanied minors in Swedish asylum policy and procedure

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Department of Child and Youth Studies. Stockholm University

Sammanfattning: 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.