Unaccompanied minors/children in Sweden

last update: November 2015

Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors have generated much debate and lot of Swedish people have begun working with them professionally, such as social workers in working in shelters for unaccompanied minors. If you are under 18 years old and come to Sweden without parents you count as an unaccompanied minor. There are special housings for children and youth. A trustee is selected of you come to Sweden without a parent or other guardian. At the first meeting with the Migration Office your application for asylum is registered. Your fingerprints and photo is taken. 

You are asked then or in a meeting short after about your family situation, the travel here and about your health. The Migration Office often makes a first judgment of your age at this meeting. It sometimes happens that children are registered as grown-ups even if there are documents that show that you are a child. Then you do not get a guardian. It can be hard to affect the age assessment later.

Unaccompanied minors who have not been registered as if they have applied for asylum should first have their asylum applications examined in an EU-country where the child has family members. Second where you have applied for asylum. In the case of unaccompanied children your guardian has to confirm the asylum application and therefore you will not be informed in the first meeting with the Migration Office if your fingerprints have been found in any other country.

You are called to a meeting with the Migration Office. To this meeting you can send in and refer to reports that supports your story and experiences in the country you are risking to be sent back to. If there is information that shows that the decision of the Migration Office is wrong, for example that you have not applied for asylum in the other country, it is important to give this information to the authorities in the other country. This country should then say no to the Swedish Migration Offices request. It is the same if an age assessment has been done that means that a transfer is planned which would not have happened if Sweden had accepted you as a child.

Generally it takes severe health conditions that can endanger your long term health or life and that the sending back is a big risk for you for Sweden to revoke a Dublin decision. That an asylum-seeker wants to end his/her life, or that the health is connected to experiences in the other country is not enough according to the Migration Offices. Organizations says that anyway it is important to show how your health is connected to experiences in the other country and that you can have need for protection from the treatment there.

It is important that health and psychological condition is taken up in the meeting with the Migration Office and in appeals. Other relevant things in combination with this, is your adjustment to Sweden or if you have relatives. If you have relatives the law says that the Migration Office has to work so you can be reunited.


Age Assessment

Your age can come up for discussion again because of new information that comes in from other countries.  It is common that children are registered as grown-ups or that children them self, for different reasons, say that they are over 18 years old. If the Migration Office gets information like this you are called to a new meeting about your age and then they do an age assessment. It is important to demand that the Migration Office investigates your age through a doctor specializing in children. According to the Migration Offices own guidelines children have the right to demand an investigation from a doctor. If only an X-ray study is used your age should not be changed if the X-ray shows that you are up to 21 years because the margin for errors is big.


What happens if you hide?

If you hide from the authorities, the process continues if your case is appealed. Your guardian gets information about the courts decision. Sometimes the Migration Office does not register that a child has hidden. In such case the Dublin decision stops after six months. Normally you can count that your case is written off after 18 months if you are hidden. Even if the Migration Office has left your case to the police the time limits goes on in the same way. The guardians mission keeps on as long as the Migration Office or the police think that you are still in the country. If you are still in Sweden after the 18 months you can apply for asylum again and the case gets to the Migration Office again even if has been a case for the police.



The following had been copied from “Good Advise” published by FARR 2015 PAGE 65-68 >


Children’s reasons:

Who is considered a child?

In Sweden you are a child until the age of 18. If an asylum seeker turns 18 before a decision concerning residency is made, he or she will be regarded as an adult by the migration authorities. Thus, when it comes to determining whether you are to be treated as an adult or a child, it is the age at the time of the decision that matters rather than how old you werewhenyou came to Sweden.


Legal rights of the child

Sweden has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that Sweden has promised that every child who applies for asylum is to be treated with special consideration to that which is in the best interest of the child and the child's development and health. However, the principles of the convention are not directly effective. They need to be transposed into Swedish law in order for the decision makers to be able to apply them. Not all parts of the convention have been integrated into Swedish law, but the Aliens Act contains a recital (a so-­called “portalparagraf”) on the best interests of the child:

In cases involving a child, particular attention must be given to what is required with regard to the child’s health and development and the best interests of the child in general.

Aliens Act, Chapter 1, Section 10

The Child Convention states that the best interests of the child should be prioritized – that it be regarded as of the utmost importance. However, the preparatory work to the AliensActstates that the best interests of the child should be weighed against Sweden's interest ofregulated immigration. That rule is not as strong as the first one, and what is best for the child must always be examined and motivated in decisions on residency. It is important to makesure that the best interests of the child are not just mentioned but have actually beenconsidered in the decision, and in what way.


Children should be given the opportunity to speak for themselves

The law states that when a child is affected by a decision, that child should be heard(interviewedby the migration authorities), unless it is obviously inappropriate. It is important to create a secure environment in which the child can speak, even though it can be difficult for a child to talk on command or in a place that feels intimidating.

The authorities should take into consideration that the child her maturity and age will allow. The parents decide whether their child should be interviewed or not.


Children may have their own reasons for asylum

Swedish authorities usually emphasize the child's right to its parents, which means that ifthe parents' reasons for asylum are found to be insufficient it is usually considered best forthe child to accompany them back to their native country. Even if it would be in the best interests of the child to stay in Sweden with the parents, this is not always sufficient. It is important to remember that even children can have grounds for asylum. It is commonfor the Migration Agency's investigators and even public counsels not to consider thispossibility. Even if they remember that there may exist particularly distressing circumstances for children, such as the fact that they may have adapted well to life in Sweden, that they are ill and need medical treatment or similar conditions, children'sexperience from their native countries and fear of return are easily overlooked.

It can also be difficult for you as a parent to find out what your child knows, and to see your child being forced to think about traumatic experiences again. But it is still important that events pertaining to the child are brought into the light. If your child has beentraumatized,ignoring it will definitely not help. Therefore, try to think of what your child may have experienced and witnessed. Letting the child draw can be a useful way ofgathering information, if it is hard to find the proper words to describe what has happened.

A traumatized child may need help from a psychotherapist or a paediatrician in order to make sense of what has happened. These people can also issue official opinions in order to explain to the migration authorities what the child has experienced and what kind of treatment is needed. As with adults, it is important to account for everything that might happen to the childupon return to your native country. Are your children under threat due to your situation? Does the child risk reprisals, not being able to go to school, being taken into custody or being separated from you in some other way? Does the child risk circumcision or forced marriage? If the child has physical or mental disabilities, will he or she be given proper care and treatment in your native country?


Unaccompanied children

Children who have come to Sweden without their parents or other guardians are usually called unaccompanied children. Every such child is assigned to a trustee (god man), who isto take responsibility for the child and take care of its affairs in place of a parent.

It is important also for unaccompanied minors to account for everything that may havehappened to them. Since the child may not know what is required and does not see the public counsel for such a long time, other adults may need to assist. Children may be threatened because of their parents' position, due to refusal to take up arms or join a militia, because a hostile group systematically kills or kidnaps young people – or, similarly to adults, due to their own activity or belonging to a certain group. Children may also be in fright due to trafficking.


If you have applied for asylum as an unaccompanied minor

The Migration Agency or the local social welfare board will contact the head guardian and apply for a trustee who can look after you. If you are given residency, you are instead granted a specially appointed guardian.  Unaccompanied children are supposed to be considered top priority by the migration authorities. The government has stated that it should not take more than three months for an unaccompanied child to be informed of a decision in his or her case. However, that time limit is not always respected. It is common for asylum inquiries about minors to be chiefly concerned with finding out where the parents are, in order for the child to be able to be reunited with them. If you are underage and unable to return to your native country, you, your trustee or your public counsel must work together to explain this to the Migration Agency's investigator. If the Migration Agency investigator suspects that you are older than you have claimed to be, your recorded age may be revised. That may happen because you have been registered as being older in another EU member state or because the caseworker is of the opinion that you look like an adult. Sometimes x-­‐rays of the teeth or wrists are used to determine people's age.If the Migration Agency caseworker makes a note that you are over 18, the authorities will from then on treat you as an adult. If that happens, you will not be appointed a trustee nor be provided with youth housing, and you could be deported even if your parents are not found. You do not have the right to appeal an age evaluation, but if you are certain that the evaluation is incorrect you can – perhaps with the help of your former trustee – try to get the Migration Agency investigator to change it. According to the Migration Agency's own directives, a dental examination must show that you are likely over the age of 21 in order for the Migration Agency to alter your age to over 18 (since dental x-­ray is an uncertain method).Another EU country may have done an evaluation before, in which case you can request that Sweden conducts its own inquiry. If you have your own documents proving your age this makes everything much easier.  If you are under the age of 18 and are not granted residency in Sweden you cannot be sent back to your native country unless there are relatives or at least an orphanage there to take care of you. If not, the expulsion order cannot be enforced until you are 18. Yet if you are denied residency according to the Dublin Regulation and are to be deported to another EU country, you can be sent even if there is no one there to take responsibility for you.


Go back