In this part you can read about what rights all children in Sweden have and what support you have the right to as an unaccompanied minor. You can read about some of the authorities and people who are responsible for you being given the security that you have the right to, and you can read a lot about your right to housing, school education, financial support and healthcare.
The dividing line between being a child and an adult can differ from country to country. In Sweden you are a child until you turn 18 years of age. All children in Sweden have the same rights.
Sweden applies the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It says what rights all children must have. Some of the most important rules in this Convention are that
- all children have the right to life and development
- the best interests of the child must always be important
- children have the right to say what they think
- all children have the same rights.
Child asylum seekers have the same rights as all children in Sweden. This means, for example, that you have the right to live in security, attend school and have leisure time. You have the right to the healthcare and dental care that you need. You are able to decide about your own body, and no one is allowed to force you to have sex or get married. No one is allowed to strike or threaten you.
When adults who have responsibility for you decide something that affects you, they must listen to what you want and think about what is best for you. You have the right to say what you think and to be listened to, but that does not mean that things will always be the way you want them to be.
You have the right to special support
Unaccompanied minors have the right to special support. It is the social services in the municipality where you live that have to make sure that you get accommodation that suits you and your needs. You will also be given a "guardian", who will speak for you when your parents are not able to do so. You have the right to this support even if you come to Sweden with an adult who is not your parent.
When you turn 18 years
When you turn 18 years old, you are an adult and do not have the same right to support and protection as a child has.
You will meet several authorities and many different adults who are responsible for various matters concerning you.
Public authorities have to make sure that society functions according to the law of Sweden. The Swedish Migration Agency and the social services are examples of authorities that you will have a lot of contact with.
Swedish Migration Agency
The responsibilities of the Swedish Migration Agency include
- investigating your application and deciding whether or not you have the right to asylum and a residence permit
- appointing a public counsel who can help you with your application
- giving you financial support if you do not have money of your own
- deciding what municipality will be responsible for giving you accommodation, school education and a guardian
- helping you to make contact with your parents if this is possible
- helping you travel from Sweden if you are not allowed to stay here.
You will meet several different people at the Swedish Migration Agency. If you feel more comfortable talking with a man or a woman, you can say so.
The responsibilities of the municipality include
- getting you somewhere to live that suits you and your needs
- enabling you to attend school
- getting you a guardian.
Every municipality has something called the social services. The social services work according to rules about how society has to help everyone who needs support. It is the social services that decide where you will live. All unaccompanied minors are given a contact person in the social services who is called a social worker.
If you are under 18 years and come to Sweden without your parents, you get a guardian. You will not live with your guardian, but they are responsible for helping you with several matters that your parents would otherwise have handled.
For example, a guardian has to
- be present when you have contact with authorities, for example the Swedish Migration Agency or the social services.
- handle the contact with your school
- help you to make appointments with a doctor, dentist or psychologist
- be responsible for your finances if you are under 16 years.
To enable you and the staff at the Swedish Migration Agency to understand one another, an interpreter will translate what you say. The interpreter can speak both Swedish and the language you speak. The interpreter will either sit in the same room as you or will be on the phone or a video link. The interpreter has to translate everything that is said in the room, and not say any more than that.
It is important that you and the interpreter understand one another and that you are not afraid to say anything when the interpreter is present. If you do not understand the interpreter or if you are, for instance, related to the interpreter, you must say so. If you would prefer to have a male or a female interpreter, you have to say so in advance.
A public counsel is a person who knows the Swedish law. They will give you legal advice and help you with your application for asylum. It is the Swedish Migration Agency that appoints a public counsel for you, but they do not work for the Swedish Migration Agency. You can suggest a person if you know a counsel that you trust, but it is not certain that you can get the specific counsel you would like to have. You can also say if you would prefer a male or a female counsel.
Obligation to observe secrecy
Everyone who works at the Swedish Migration Agency, in the municipality and in healthcare or at school has an obligation to observe secrecy. This means that they are not allowed to tell anyone what you have said unless that person has a legal right to know that. Only the people working with your case have the right to know what you have said. The interpreter and your public counsel also have an obligation to observe secrecy.
But a guardian does not have an obligation to observe secrecy. This is because, just like your parents, a guardian has to speak to various authorities about you.
Everyone who has obligation to observe secrecy is allowed to break their obligation to observe secrecy if they think that you are going to harm yourself or that you are in danger in some other way.
The municipality is responsible for arranging accommodation that suits you and your needs.
When you apply for asylum the Swedish Migration Agency will contact the municipality that has to arrange temporary accommodation for you. After a few days or weeks you will be told which municipality will have the long-term responsibility for and that will have to make sure that you attend school and get the support you need while you are waiting for a decision on your application for asylum.
If you have relatives or friends in Sweden that you want to live with or near to, you should tell the Swedish Migration Agency when you apply for asylum.
You can live in different kinds of accommodation
The municipality is responsible for finding good accommodation for you. The form of accommodation can differ. You can, for example, be allowed to live with relatives or friends, with a family who receive children and young people in need of help in their home or with other young people in a residential home where there are staff who help you.
If you want to live with relatives in Sweden, the social services in the municipality must give their approval to you living with them. Before the social services make their decision, they investigate whether the family is able to look after you.
If anything happens that means that you do not feel secure where you are living, you should tell your guardian or social worker right away.
Accommodation if you have turned18
When you turn 18 years, or if the Swedish Migration Agency assesses that you are over 18 years, the responsibility for arranging accommodation for you shifts from the municipality to the Swedish Migration Agency. This means that you may have to move to temporary accommodation provided by the Swedish Migration Agency or arrange your own housing.
When you apply for asylum in Sweden, you are able to apply for financial support from the Swedish Migration Agency if you do not have money of your own.
There are two types of financial support to apply for: daily allowance and special grant.
If you have the right to daily allowance, you get a sum of money per day that is paid out once a month. The money is intended to be enough for your personal needs, for instance clothing, shoes, medicine and what you want to do in your leisure time. Sometimes these costs are included in your accommodation, and you get pocket money from the person running the home.
If you have a special need of something that the daily allowance is not sufficient to cover, you and your guardian can apply for a special grant. This can, for example, be glasses, winter clothing or something else that you cannot do without.
Your guardian is responsible for your finances
If you are under 16 years, it is your guardian who fills in the application and is responsible for your money. When you have turned 16 , you have the right to apply for and be responsible for your daily allowance and special grant by yourself. You are given your own debit card that daily allowance and special grant are paid into.
You have the right to attend school like all other children living in Sweden. School is free.
In Sweden all children have to attend school. It is the municipality that is responsible for schools, and your guardian has to make sure that you start school as soon as possible.
The compulsory school is for ten years and you usually start it in the year when you turn six years old. The first year of school, which is called preschool class, contains a lot of play and creative activity to prepare children for their coming school years. At compulsory school all pupils take much the same subjects.
Upper secondary school
Upper secondary school is a voluntary education, where pupils are able to choose a specialisation to prepare themselves for working life or further studies at a university or other higher education institutions. To be able to study at upper secondary school, you have to have completed your studies at compulsory school.
As an asylum seeker, you have the right to complete an upper secondary education if you started your upper secondary studies before you turn 18. This applies even if you move to another municipality.
Law on upper secondary level studies
The so-called law on upper secondary level studies is a law that gives a person who has applied for asylum and is studying at upper secondary school more of a chance of being able to stay in Sweden and complete their upper secondary education.
If your asylum application is approved, you generally get a residence permit for 13 months or three years. If you are between 17 and 24 years old and are studying at upper secondary level, you can, in certain cases, get a longer residence permit to enable you to complete your education. In certain cases you can also get a residence permit to study at upper secondary level even though the Swedish Migration Agency considers that you do not have grounds for asylum.
You have the right to the healthcare and dental care that you need. It is free for all children in Sweden.
If you fall ill or do not feel well and need to see a doctor or dentist, your guardian or someone from your residential home can help you to make an appointment. Remember to bring your asylum seeker card (LMA card) to the appointment.
Everyone who applies for asylum in Sweden is given an offer of a medical examination. The purpose of the medical examination is for you to get early help and treatment if you need healthcare.
At the examination you are given information about how health care in Sweden works. You have to answer questions about your health and are given an offer of having tests done.
Take the opportunity to ask if there is anything you wonder about, and do not be afraid to say how you feel. Healthcare personnel have an obligation to observe secrecy and the medical examination does not affect your application for asylum.
Violence and sexual abuse
Many asylum seekers have been subjected to violence or sexual abuse, in their country of origin or during their flight to Sweden. That kind of experience can make you feel bad both physically and mentally, but help is available. You can, for example, talk to healthcare personnel when you have your medical examination, with the youth clinic or with the nurse or welfare officer at your school. They can help you to get the right care.
All forms of violence and sexual abuse are illegal in Sweden. It is always the person who has harmed you who is responsible, and you can never be punished for being subjected to violence or sexual abuse. This applies irrespective of what relationship you have to one another; it also applies, for instance, to rape within a marriage and when parents hit their own children. When an adult has sex with a child under the age of 15, it is counted as rape. In Sweden it is also illegal to force or deceive someone into getting married, and children under the age of 18 are not allowed to get married.
Contact the police on telephone number 114 14 if you are being subjected to violence or sexual abuse or are afraid of being married off. If you are in acute danger, you should call the police on telephone number 112.
Female genital mutilation
We know that female genital mutilation happens in many parts of the world. This is when someone cuts a girl’s or a woman’s genitals. Female genital mutilation is completely forbidden in Sweden and is seen as a serious offence. A person who has been subjected to it is not punished. If someone has done this to you and you have problems because of that, you can get help from healthcare. Talk to your school nurse, youth clinic or health centre.
Contact the police if you are afraid that you, or another girl you know, will be subjected to genital mutilation. You can also call Kvinnofridslinjen on telephone number 020‑50 50 50 to get advice and support. Kvinnofridslinjen is the national helpline for women who have been subjected to threats and violence.
Sexually transmitted diseases
You have the right to knowledge about how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid infecting other people. Examples of sexually transmitted diseases are chlamydia, hepatitis, gonorrhoea and HIV. If you know that you have such a disease, you must say so when you have your medical examination so that you can receive healthcare and avoid infecting anyone else. If you are uncertain about whether you are infected the healthcare personnel can run tests.
Contraceptives and maternal health care
In Sweden maternal health care and obstetric care are free for asylum seekers. You also have the right to free contraceptive advice so that you can choose by yourself whether you want to be a parent. Both girls and boys have the right to information about how they can protect themselves and other people from pregnancy. If you are a girl and become pregnant and you do not want to have a child, you have the right to terminate the pregnancy through abortion.
It is usual for people to feel worried about what will happen in the future when they are waiting for a decision on their asylum application. Some people may also feel bad because they have experienced awful things or because they are missing their family. Examples of feeling bad mentally can be having anxiety, having difficulty sleeping or feeling sad and dejected.
You can get help and support from healthcare where you live. You can also talk to the welfare officer or nurse at your school.
A disability is when you have an injury or illness that, for example, makes it difficult for you to move about, hear, speak or understand. If you have a disability, you have the right to practical support in your everyday life, at school and when you are going to talk to the Swedish Migration Agency. Having a disability does not affect your application for asylum. At your medical examination you can say if you have, or you think you have, a disability.
You have the right both to preventive dental care and to the treatment that the dentist assesses that you need. Dental care is free for all children in Sweden.
If you need glasses, your guardian can make an appointment with an optician for an eye exam. If you need to buy glasses, the optician has to sign a document that you take to the Swedish Migration Agency so that you can apply for a special grant for this.
More information about health
At www.1177.se/other-languages there is information in several languages about different diseases and about how healthcare in Sweden works. You can also call the healthcare helpline on telephone number 1177, where you can talk to a nurse who can answer questions and give you advice about who to turn to so as to get the right healthcare.
At www.youmo.se there is information for young people about health, relationships, sex and much more in several languages.
At www.rfsu.se/upos there are short information films for anyone who wants to know more about the body, sexuality and health. The films are available in many different languages. Here you can, for instance, find films about contraception, giving birth and pregnancy.
Kvinnofridslinjen, a helpline, offers support and advice to women who have been subjected to threats and physical, mental or sexual violence. Call 020‑50 50 50. They can arrange an interpreter in a few minutes. You can read more on kvinnofridslinjen.se. The information is available in several languages.
Call the police on telephone number 114 14 if you want to report a crime; if, for example, someone has hit you or subjected you to sexual abuse. You can also call the police if you are afraid of being married off or subjected to genital mutilation. If the situation is acute, you should call 112.