Sammanfattning av publikation

Hedlund & Wimark, 2019 🔗

Unaccompanied children claiming asylum on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

Year: 2019

Type of text: Academic article

Published by:  Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 32, No. 2

Language: English

Author: Daniel Hedlund & Thomas Wimark

Pages: 20

Available at: [Inte offentligt tillgÀnlig, abstract tillgÀngligt via lÀnk]

Short description of text 

“this study aims to explore the SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity] claims of unaccompanied children and examine how case officers at the Swedish Migration Agency (SMA) respond when evaluating their credibility” (258)

“Migration Agency (SMA) responded to the credibility of their claims. The SMA provided one calendar year [2011] of asylum decisions concerning unaccompanied children, and 16 SOGI cases were identified” (abstract)

Most important results

“The results showed that case officers directed their focus to the quality of the children’s sexual relationships. This indicates that the case officers expect children to engage in long-term relationships similar to adults, despite their age. Furthermore, case officers tended to only render narratives credible if the society as whole was narrated as perpetrators. This indicates that case officers expect origin societies to be monolithic. The main conclusion, therefore, is that case officers are guided both by homonormative as well as homonationalist views in their decision-making process.” (abstract)

“In the case of Sweden, the explicit obligation to award refugee status when a person is recognized as in need of protection due to sexual orientation or/and gender identity was incorporated into the 2005 Aliens Act (SFS 2005:716) that came into force on 31 March 2006.” (260)

“Historically, it has been possible to provide subsidiary protection for SOGI claims in Sweden since 1997 and, before this time, it was possible to grant residency based on sexual orientation and gender identity on humanitarian grounds (Government Bill 2005/06:6).” (260)

“The SMA recognizes that children can have asylum claims related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity and recommends that the assessment be adapted to age and maturity level, as well as the particular situation in the country of origin (SMA 2015). Following the UNHCR (2012) Guidelines on SOGI, asylum interview questions concerning, for example, the applicant’s childhood, family life and relationships can be posed during an asylum interview, but not questions about sexual acts (UNHCR 2012; SMA 2015). Moreover, the SMA has also concluded that there are no right or wrong answers and has acknowledged that applicants may feel ashamed about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that an applicant may not identify with particular ‘identities’ (SMA 2015). However, the main Swedish LGBT organization RFSL has argued that SMA decisions are based on the applicants’ description of public displays of their sexuality in their country of origin and that decisions rely heavily on country-specific reports on criminalization (Gro¹ ndahl 2012).” (261)

“all the children in the sample originated from countries in which the possibility of receiving protection as an LGBT person from state authorities could be construed as impossible either legally (due to criminalization) or in practice (due to homo- and transphobia)” (264)

“Of the 16 decisions, 11 were granted refugee status based on SOGI, one was granted subsidiary protection, one was granted residency on the grounds of particularly distressing circumstances and three were rejected. This means that the SOGI claims of five children were not recognized, as they would otherwise have been granted refugee status. All these children were boys, and included the two males mentioned above who had expressed uncertainty about sexuality or rejected the homosexual identity.” (264)

“In all cases but one, the need for protection appeared to be connected to the experience with a sexual partner. This experience had most commonly led to being discovered engaging in a sexual act by a family member and/or becoming the focus of rumours by the local community. “ (266)

Results of above in order of occurrence in the material:

  1. Abuse and violence from local community
  2. Incarceration by parents for months
  3. Persecution from authorities (266)

“There were also other stories concerning the police. One child reported that he had been well treated, although the police had arrested and incarcerated him. Two children also stated that the police had taken them into custody to protect them from the local community.” (266)

“ Several of the children had their competence questioned by the SMA case officer using different techniques to question their knowledge claims. This meant that potentially undetailed aspects of the child’s narrative were highlighted and scrutinized in such a manner that the narrative as a whole appeared less likely. The themes below express how some of this questioning is presented.” (266) example: “Also, the SMA finds it remarkable that you do not remember your parents’ phone number” (269)

SMA downplaying the seriosity of relationships had by children (267)

“Prior research has also proposed that the open display of sexual orientation and self-identification is key in the asylum decision-making system (Murray 2016; Giametta 2017). In this study, however, we have not identified any requirements for openness or a developed or ‘real’ SOGI identity. This may be because the asylum seekers are children (see Hazeldean 2011).” (271)

“This review of unaccompanied SOGI cases has not found that SMA case officers generally question the sexual identities of the children, nor do they find it necessary to discuss the development of their sexual identities. This is particularly interesting since Wimark and Hedlund (2017) have shown that the law is written in such a way that discussions about identities should be expected. Thus, it seems that, in their decision-making, SMA case officers limit the interpretation of sexual orientation when applying the migration law. This could be an indication that SMA case officers have considerable scope for manoeuvring in their use of definitions, which is an aspect that is often lacking in previous critical research.” (273)

Theoretical perspective/framework




“For this study, the first author manually identified all the SOGI decisions within the data set. This meant that the author read through each of the 2,321 decisions in the data set and focused on asylum claims linked to sexual orientation and gender identities. The inclusion criteria were that (i) the unaccompanied child must have expressed an experience of gender and/or sexual difference, for example, as identity or practice, and that (ii) this was the primary reason for seeking asylum in Sweden. When the manual sorting of the data set was completed, 16 SOGI asylum cases had been identified and therefore form the data sample of this study. No cases contained remarks about gender identities. In sum, this also means that the sample of 16 cases relating to persecution primarily based on sexual orientation comprised about 0.7 per cent of the decisions issued concerning unaccompanied children during 2011.” (263=

Summarised by: Josefin Åström