Sammanfattning av publikation

Ottosson, Eastmond & Scheierenbeck, 2013 🔗

Safeguarding a Child Perspective in Asylum Reception: Dilemmas of Children’s Case Workers in Sweden

Year: 2013

Type of text: Vetenskaplig Artikel

Published by:  Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 26, No. 2

Language: English

Author: Lisa Ottosson, Marita Eastmond & Isabell Schierenbeck 

Pages: 18

Available at:

Short description of text 

A qualitative interview and observation study focusing on how the BarnhandlĂ€ggare or Children’s Case Workers (CCWs) at Swedish Migration Board in the south-west of Sweden deal with issues of reception (like housing, daily allowances, education and healthcare) in a context where there is a tension between between a state’s duty, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC 1989), to consider a child’s ‘best interests’, and the state’s right to control immigration and the requirements to do so in a time and cost efficient way.

Most important results

“In 2007, the SMB agreed on a set of guidelines for the reception of asylum-seeking families with children, in order to strengthen the implementation of CRC directives (Swedish Migration Board 2007). A core feature of the new guidelines was the introduction of special case workers, referred to as BarnhandlĂ€ggare or Children’s Case Workers (CCWs) with responsibility for children’s welfare during the asylum-seeking process. The introduction of CCWs in 2007 was preceded by a drawn-out controversy that engaged many sectors of Swedish society and was widely publicized. It arose in response to a nation-wide epidemic of a life-threatening condition of severe devitalization among asylum-seeking children, many of them living in hiding, during a period of extremely high rejection rates (around 90 per cent) in the early 2000s (e.g. Bodega˚rd 2005).” (248-249)

“When the guidelines for the reception of children and their families were adopted in 2007, no new resources were allocated for this by the Board and local units employing a CCW have to re-allocate resources within the unit (Swedish Migration Board 2007).” (257)

“Observations were a useful complement to interviews because they sometimes highlighted disparities between ideal and practice—how the CCWs said they would like to perform and what actually happened during such meetings—thus also confirming the dilemmas they themselves brought up in our interviews with them.” (251)

“CCWs place emphasis on the importance of ‘adopting a child perspective’ and have in fact coined their own term for this, ‘child think’ (barntĂ€nk). Child think refers to two ways in which CCWs may represent a child’s perspective: one constitutes ‘a child’s own perspective’, meaning the views provided by the child her/himself on a particular matter; the other refers to the CCWs’ own understandings of how a child (a particular child or any child) might think and react in a given situation (cf. HalldeÂŽn 2003).” (254)

“fundamental to their work to listen to children in order to gain insight into their individual situations and understand each child’s perspective. Taking children’s own views into account was thus presented as a prerequisite to understand a child’s best interests.” (254)

“The CCWs also underlined the organizational limitations involved in eliciting such views and gaining sufficient information about each child. Because of the speed with which cases must be reviewed as well as the financial restraint expected of them as CCWs, they often interview the families only once or twice; few CCWs are able to visit families in their homes. “ (255)

“The CCWs were aware that, for adults as well as children, they were also representatives of the SMB: persons of authority with the power to make decisions over them and upon whom they were in many respects dependent. Therefore, CCWs explained, children may also be careful not to entrust them with information that might be detrimental to the family’s asylum case. In addition, the common use of interpreters can be a source of anxiety in some families and we observed on occasions that parents could be very particular about the regional or ethnic origin of the interpreter chosen.” (255)

“The case workers claimed that more explicit guidelines would clarify their mandate and facilitate the implementation of a child perspective.” (256)

Uncertainty about when the case officer could grant the families and children special allowances, such as money for winter clothes or free public transportation card (256)

Some examples of ‘activism’ mentioned: for example, granting rights families/children were not actually entitled to, and one case officer that helped in the process of appeal a Dublin case (260)

“while the CCWs use the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a guide in their work, many of their colleagues within the SMB prioritize practicalities and procedural issues in their own areas of responsibility.” (260)

“relatively low status of CCWs within the SMB” (260)

“Thus, this study shows that the CCWs are often reluctant to use their power to argue and act in favour of children’s interests, for instance to resist restrictive practices, and may not always recognize their potential in driving policy.” (261)

Theoretical perspective/framework

(The discretionary power of) street-level bureaucrats


“semi-structured interviews and observations with all nine CCWs employed at the five reception units that make up the south-western regional branch of the SMB. This branch, which is one of six regional branches, receives roughly one fourth of all asylum seekers entering Sweden.” (250)

“interviews were also carried out with a range of other officials engaged in the local unit, including two managers of local units, five Reception Handling Officers responsible for administering housing and daily allowances, and one official involved in the practical matters of housing.” (251)

Summarized by: Josefin Åström