Technologies of Displacement and Children’s Rights to Asylum in Sweden
Type of text: Vetenskaplig Artikel
Published by: Springer
Author: Anna Lundberg & Jacob Lind
Short description of text
‘This article reveals two intricate processes through which children’s rights are displaced in the Swedish asylum process; by overlooking children’s individual claims for asylum through a circle of neglect, and negating children’s best interests. The article demonstrates how the balancing act between migration control on one hand and children’s rights on the other hand plays out in the asylum process, which results in a double displacement; the children are not adult enough to be addressed as asylum seekers and not children enough to deserve qualification as bearer of children’s rights’ (abstract).
Most important results
– It is being argued that children’s rights are being hollowed out gradually.
– The study reveals that children’s asylum applications were assumed as being embedded in the parents’ claims, thus overlooking the children’s individual claims.
– ‘The asylum officers expressed in the interviews how they lack appropriate knowledge about children’s rights in general in their decision-making. This makes it hard for them to know what to do with the claims the children make, and to know what impact such claims could have on their decisions. Consequently, the officials are less likely to search for and ask about children’s own experiences. Additionally, in the country of origin information (COI) used to assess the trustworthiness of asylum claims, there is a lack of information about children’s specific circumstances. Together with the time pressure, the asylum officers are even less likely to try and look for such information and get updated on what kind of child specific claims for asylum that could be made’ (p. 9).
– Further observed processes are what the authors call ‘circles of neglect’: ‘the prevalent use of template formulations in the written asylum decision and the practical irrelevance of Child Rights Impact Assessments (CRIA). In the 30 decisions concerning families from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon for example, where half of the applications were rejected, it was clear that most assessments of ‘the best interests of the child’ were expressed in essentially identical ways. The pertinent sections of the Aliens Act, excerpts from judgments by the Migration Court of Appeal, and preparatory work of the Alien’s Act were repeated in exact wording throughout practically all of the 30 decisions, both rejected and accepted applications. Still, the application of such articulations in the assessment of the child’s situation remained unclear; the template formulations about children’s rights only talked about their duty to assess these rights without also stating if and, if so, how this had been done … Closely related to the use of templates is how the interviewees talked about their use of CRIA. Some younger officials described these as a checklist where the different elements they should go through during the assessment could be ticked off. Nevertheless, according to practically all of the interviewees, they ticked the boxes primarily because they were obliged to and not to actually assess the impact their decisions would have on children. Similarly, the decision-makers expressed in the interviews that they are aware of their duty to apply a child perspective, and the best-interests principle, in the asylum process of families. In practice, however, we observed that this came about mainly through template formulations. Both the use of template formulations and the practical irrelevance of CRIA in the decisions contribute to a displacement of children’s rights in the decision-making. This seems to have given some decision makers a sense of actually having considered children’s rights. Due to the legislation—and the Migration Agency’s formal policy documents—symbolic paperwork tend to become an alibi for not taking children’s rights seriously’ (p. 10).
– ‘We argue that negating children’s rights has the consequence of turning assessments about children’s rights into a question of what is the lowest possible level of protection, which mirrors the state’s deportation regime … In a system aiming for the maintenance of the nation state and a continuous exclusion of those who are not seen to belong, the asylum process and its officers are constrained to search for what circumstances a child can be sent back to without it ‘being in contradiction with the best interests of the child’. Our analysis of the ‘circle of neglect’ and the use of negations shows that on a broad structural level there seems to be very little room for children’s rights claiming in the deportation regime, and there is no room for children in the asylum process. The implication is a double displacement: Children in families seeking asylum are not adult enough to for their asylum claims to be considered, and not children enough to deserve qualification as bearer of children’s rights in Sweden’ (p. 13).
– It is being argued that the government is ‘sending out a signal that any assessment suggesting that a child’s best interests would be to stay in Sweden would potentially be a ‘too far-reaching interpretation of the best interests-principle’. We argue that this logic is an effectual mean to limit migration through policy, since the signals have trickled down into the everyday practices and discourses at the Migration Board and consequently have become a central part of the deportation regime’, further ‘the asylum officers seem to believe that they apply a child perspective in their decision-making when they actually are involved in practices displacing children’s rights’ (p. 14).
– ‘Everyday practices of discussing negative forms of children’s rights, such as what could be considered not to be in contradiction with a child’s best interests, result in a race to the bottom. Asylum officers ask just how bad the situation in the country of origin can be for them to still deport children and their families, rather than using children’s rights to ask what kind of persecution or discrimination a specific child needs to be protected from’ (p. 16).
– ‘The desolate answer to whether an incorporation of the CRC into Swedish law can undo practices of displacement of children’s rights is that it will probably not. Rather, an incorporation risks institutionalising and legitimising the problem of displacement as this happens through complex interrelated practices. Just as the asylum officers talk about considering children’s rights when these are actually displaced, struggles for an incorporation may lead to ‘more rights through more rules’, which further displace children’s rights. Focusing debates around children’s rights on the legal framework supposed to protect them without also discussing what political struggles are needed on a wider scale, will shield the core of the problem; how rights, in particular children’s rights, tend to reproduce exclusionary politics of asylum. In our study, we have seen no signs that incorporation would influence the strength or scope of the deportation regime’ (p. 17).
Children’s rights, ‘deportability’
Analysis of 100 asylum decisions, from the second half of 2013, and 10 semi-structured interviews with 20 asylum officers at the Swedish Migration Agency.
Suggestions for further research
A closer analysis of the sovereign nation states’ prioritisation of migration control, to further understand the role of children’s rights in the current world.