Sammanfattning av publikation

Sundqvist, 2017 đź”—

Forced Repatriation of Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Refugee Children: Towards an Interagency Model

Year: 2017

Type of text: Doctoral Thesis

Published by:  UmeĂĄ University

Language: English

Author: Johanna Sundqvist

Pages: 101

Available at:

***article based on this thesis***

Sundqvist, Johanna, Kenneth, Ă–gren, Padyab, Mojgan & Ghazinour, Mehdi (2016). Collaboration patterns among Swedish professionals in the repatriation of unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children: an explorative study. European Journal of Social Work. 19:6, s. 901-916

Short description of text 

The thesis consists of four substudies/papers aiming to explore and analyse forced repatriation workers’ collaboration, mental health and coping strategies, with special focus on social workers and police officers in the Swedish context.

Most important results

– Substudy I showed low levels of collaboration among the actors (social workers, staff at care homes, police officers, Swedish Migration Board officers and legal guardians) and the use of different strategies to manage their work tasks. Some of them used a teamwork pattern, showing an understanding of the different roles in forced repatriation, and were willing to compromise for the sake of collaboration. Others tended to isolate themselves from interaction and acted on the basis of personal preference, and some tended to behave sensitively, withdraw and become passive observers rather than active partners in the forced repatriation. 

– Substudy II showed that poorer mental health was associated with working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children among social workers but not among police officers. 

– Substudy III showed that both social workers and police officers reported relatively high access to social support. Furthermore, police officers working in forced repatriation with low levels of satisfaction with social interaction and close emotional support increased the odds of psychological disturbances. 

– Substudy IV showed that social workers used more escape avoidance, distancing and positive-reappraisal coping, whereas police officers used more planful problem solving and self-controlling coping. Additionally, social workers with experience in forced repatriation used more planful problem solving than those without experience (abstract)

Theoretical perspective/framework

Ecological system theory – collaboration, job demand, social support and mental health. 


Combination of a qualitative and quantitative research design. In qualitative substudy I, a qualitative case study methodology was used in one municipality in a middle-sized city in Sweden. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a total of 20 social workers, staff at care homes, police officers, Swedish Migration Board officers and legal guardians. A thematic approach was used to analyse the data. In quantitative substudies II, III and IV, a national survey of social workers and police officers, with and without experience of forced repatriation, was conducted. The questionnaires included sociodemographic characteristics, the Swedish Demand-Control Questionnaire, Interview Schedule for Social Interaction, Ways of Coping Questionnaire and the 12- item General Mental Health Questionnaire. Factor analysis, correlational analysis, and univariate and multivariable regression models were used to analyse the data (from Abstract). 

Policy suggestions

“In order to create the most dignified forced repatriation, based on human dignity, for unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children and with healthy actors, a forced repatriation system needs: overall statutory national guidance, interagency collaboration, actors working within a teamworking pattern, forced repatriation workers with reasonable job demands and decision latitude, with a high level of social support and adaptive coping strategies” (abstract). 

– “The point of departure for an interagency model is that it is impossible to change the decisions taken in the asylum process, but it is possible to make the system more functional and better adapted to the needs of both the children and the professionals who are set to handle them. Today, each actor acts based on their own profession, their own mission and their own organization. One result of a low level of collaboration, for example, is that when the police go to enforce repatriation on the children, they are often in poor mental health, and in fight- or-flight mode, which makes the police enforcement difficult (Ghazinour et al., 2015). Instead, this proposal suggests, that work should be organized more collaboratively, with all actors under one roof. […] Since the asylum process requires collaboration from day one, until a decision (positive or negative) is implemented, the suggestion is a model for the entire asylum process of unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children. Due to the specific complex work of repatriations, as this study has focused on, a special unit for repatriation is suggested. 

A centre for unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children, consisting of all actors involved in the children’s asylum process at governmental level (the Swedish Migration Board, the police authority), municipality level (social services, board of legal guardians) and county level for health-care services (not included in this study, but also an important actor in children’s health) can meet all requirements. […] 

One of the results of increased child safety and a higher level of collaboration might be that the children’s understanding of the asylum process and willingness to collaborate with repatriation might increase, so the number of forced repatriations (where the police are engaged) decreases. Today most repatriations are forced. A more united forced repatriation system might increase the chance of professionals perceiving their work as manageable and healthy. It is important to recognize that increased levels of neither collaboration nor planning can make the forced repatriation experience pleasant for unaccompanied asylumseeking refugee children. However, with an interagency model and the emphasis on providing the most dignified repatriation possible for the children, it might be more reasonable to work within the constraints of a government policy that forces children to leave the country when a negative asylum decision is made” (s. 62). 

Summarized by: Alva Nissen