Constructions of Credibility in Decisions concerning Unaccompanied Minors
Type of text: Vetenskaplig artikel
Published by: International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care
Author: Daniel Hedlund
Short description of text
The study explores credibility principles and key arguments used by Migration Agency case-officers in Sweden in first-decisions of asylum cases of unaccompanied minors that have been either approved because of “particularly distressing circumstances”, or rejected. It includes a short description of the asylum-seeking procedure for unaccompanied minors, and previous research.
Most important results
– ‘There were variations between the reasoning depending on if the child had received an approval or a rejection. However, irrespective of the decision outcome, the main pattern identified showed similarities in the key defining principles of constructing credibility and the rhetoric used to motivate the decision outcome. The similarities indicated that case-officers upheld a consistently questioning approach’ (p. 164) in which they were questioning secondary information, chains of information, requiring knowledge of perpetrators’ motives, questioning personal background, questioning individual persecution: ‘irrespective of decision outcome, a focus on “individual”, “personal” and “concrete” risks of persecution could be emphasised in the arguments. Perceptions about a minor’s credibility appeared to be closely linked to “objective facts” grounded in, for example, country reports, and what the Migration Agency interpreted as reasonable. When the “objective” facts did not clearly support the minor’s subjective statements about their individual situation, these claims could be constructed as exaggerative’ (p. 166), questioning political agency, questioning pre-departure behaviour: ‘Overall, in both approvals and rejections, the case-officer expressed that the minor, in the first instance, should have turned to the authorities in the country of origin’ (p. 166).
– ‘The main finding is that Migration Agency case-officers, regardless of decision outcome (approval or rejection) question the minors in different ways. Despite that there were variants of argumentations, a shared core feature was that that the child should be able to present detailed accounts characterised by coherence and rationality’ (p. 167).
– ‘Despite that decisions based on “particularly distressing circumstances” were part of the data set, the analysis indicate that the emotional dimension of “distressing” is undervalued. Indeed, case-officers seem to be focused on building arguments focused on to what extent the minor is credible when providing accounts about distress. But other aspects that can matter to children’s experiences and future development, such as their emotional well-being, with or without the potential influences of trauma, appear to rarely be discussed’ (p. 16).
– ‘Overall, case-officers questioned the child’s stated knowledge about his or her reasons for seeking asylum and in the reasoning concerning the child’s credibility constructed the minor as exaggerating his or her experiences. This finding indicates that unaccompanied minors risk being positioned as inadequate “refugee imitators”. By constructing the child as ignorant about his or her own situation the case-officer may imply that credibility becomes unachievable … Another finding was that perceived inconsistencies in a child’s narrative chain could be used to question both the credibility and the competence of the child. Overall, the case-officers’ reasoning about credibility seemed underpinned by efforts not only to identify, but also to underscore such perceived “inaccuracies”. This means that even the minors whose asylum applications were approved had their credibility questioned … This suggests a risk that the value-system of migration agency staff is based on practical knowhow learnt “on the job” and that the questioning of asylum seekers could become a key factor in credibility assessment, rather than formal laws and routine guidelines’ (p. 168).
– ‘It was further found that unaccompanied minors were consistently constructed as apolitical’ (p. 168).
– ‘In sum, this study shows that there is a risk that Migration Agency case-officers use a limited space for substantial argumentation about credibility based on individual experiences in first-decisions’ (p. 168).
The data consist of 827 excerpts containing Swedish Migration Agency case-officers’ credibility reasoning deducted from a sample of 916 first-time decisions issued during 2011 for unaccompanied minors that filed asylum claims. Qualitative thematic text analysis focusing on discursive analysis was used.