Alireza, born in 1996 in Bamyan, Afghanistan

"I do not define myself as an unaccompanied refugee child. When should you stop being considered as unaccompanied? One year after arrival? Two years? Three years?"


– Me and my family fled to Iran from the war and poverty in Afghanistan, but there was no future for me there. As my mother once said: It doesn’t matter what you know or what you do – you are already doomed. As a Hazara from Afghanistan, you are being discriminated against in all possible ways. Every hour, you are reminded that you are worthless in the eyes of the beholder. You are looked down on, you are paperless, you are subject to racism, deprived of your opportunities, you are excluded, you are pointed out, you are criminalised and are a clear target for widespread corruption. I should have been able to go to university but was wrongly accused of having stolen money from the mobile store I was working at. The whole thing led to my being forced to flee.
– I came to Sweden as an unaccompanied refugee child when I was 16 years old but I’m so much more than that. I am a lecturer, debater, politician, survivor, conference delegate and self-employed business owner. I have an idea about a research project that will improve the situation for unaccompanied refugee children with regard to schooling and the asylum process.

– Amongst other things, the objective is to result in manuals, seminars and an institution that works with unaccompanied refugees. The focus is often obscure on these issues, for example, it is important to consider issues of exclusion and how the place of residence affects unaccompanied refugees. Being able to improve the system requires an evaluation of what works in practice.

– There are several aspects of migration issues that are problematic. Such as the creation of categorisations through social debate. Talk is about unaccompanied asylum-­seeking children instead of talking to the people in question. Introducing a dialogue and having conversations with different target groups is incredibly important.

– I do not define myself as an unaccompanied refugee child. When should you stop being considered as "unaccompanied"? One year after arrival? Two years? Three years?

– Refugees are often presented as a burden on society and may fill the role of a victim, and unaccompanied children from Afghanistan end up in the firing line. Why do you look for victims and perpetrators instead of enlightening the public about examples like me? You have to provide room for role models, people who can inspire and motivate others.

– That approximately 36,000 people who fled to Sweden were granted asylum here in 2015 is a huge asset. Sweden needs well-­educated people and many of those who are coming are hugely motivated and competent but they need the right platforms. You can’t move people through society, as if they were part of a vehicle programme.

A total of 1,336 unaccompanied children and adolescents sought asylum in 2017. This is a further decrease of more than 800 people compared with the previous year.

Marocco 235 children
Afghanistan 222 children
Somalia 159 children
Syria 159 children
Albania 78 children

Children and youths that come to Sweden without a legal guardian and apply for asylum are placed in a home provided by the municipalities. They usually stay in a group or youth home, if they do not have relatives they can stay with. It is the municipalities responsibility to receive unaccompanied minors, which means they should also appoint a guardian (god man) who acts in the parents’ place. A public counsel is appointed to help the child/youth with its asylum application.

The most common group is 16–17-year-old boys.

Asylum-seeking children have the same rights as other children in Swedish society

The law states that the Swedish Migration Agency must give special consideration to what is best for the children – a child may have different reasons for asylum than the parents have. When reviewing an application for asylum for a child, the case officer must adapt the review to the age, maturity and health of the child as much as possible.
The municipalities are responsible for the accommodation and care of unaccompanied children under the age of 18, if they cannot live with relatives. All unaccompanied children are entitled to a guardian appointed by the municipality.

Last updated: 2018-03-01

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