Children's lived rights : The everyday politics of asylum-seeking children

Sammanfattning: This thesis explores asylum-seeking children’s everyday politics in relation to their situation in the Swedish reception system. It engages in af children’s political agency in which a broad definition of politics is adopted to examine and acknowledge the politics embedded in children’s everyday spaces and children’s everyday actions. Methodologically, it draws on a one-year ethnographic fieldwork and participatory methods with 18 children aged 6-12 years in two institutional settings: the school and the asylum centre. The thesis involves three empirical studies, covering arenas that the children themselves identified as important in their everyday lives.The first study explores the children’s articulated standpoints on “home” underpinned by their experiences of an institutional housing lacking home-like conditions. It shows how the children’s articulations identified spatial and relational conditions of “house” and “home” and how they criticized the asylum centre’s regulated time-space, which denied them these conditions, for example, desired food practices, spaces for play, privacy and family life. Moreover, the children’s experiences of living in an unsafe housing was reinforced through their lived fears, that is, their experiences of threats from the “Police” or “Security” and overly strict treatment from staff members of the “Reception” in addition to their fear of deportation. This study shows how the children’s critique implicitly identified how their right to wellbeing in their housing was restricted or denied.The second study focuses on children’s politics of play, manifested in what I have called their play tactics in the asylum centre’s strongly regulated time-space. It shows how the children developed a hidden resistance when they navigated in the asylum centre, that is, how they identified and handled the institutional regulations, amid their lived fears. This article specifically analyses how children’s play tactics can be understood as rights claims in a context where the children were denied spaces for play due to the asylum centre’s spatial restrictions, in the form of rules, prohibition signs and threats of repercussions from staff members.The third study explores belonging and the politics of belonging through the children’s articulated emotions as responses to practices of inclusion or exclusion in the school setting. It shows how the children responded positively, with love and happiness, or negatively, with anger, fear or sadness, depending on how practices and relations affected their sense of belonging in school. This article shows how the children’s articulated emotions contested exclusionary practices that positioned them as Others who could potentially be deported, revealing how the children were emotionally affected when their rights were denied.In conclusion, this thesis shows how the children were affected by the conditions embedded in asylum politics and how their political agency was evoked and enacted in relation to the politics that permeated their everyday lives. It argues that the children’s ways of engaging in hidden politics should be understood in relation to their uncertain position in this high-stakes context. The combined analyses of children’s everyday politics in the three studies have also illuminated, what I have called, children’s lived rights in an asylum context.

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