Journal Article

The Best Interests of the Child Principle in Swedish Asylum Cases: The Marginalization of Children's Rights

Anna Lundberg

in Journal of Human Rights Practice

Volume 3, issue 1, pages 49-70
Published in print March 2011 | ISSN: 1757-9619
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1757-9627 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhuman/hur002
The Best Interests of the Child Principle in Swedish Asylum Cases: The Marginalization of Children's Rights

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This article is based on a two-year research project, ‘The Best Interests of the Child – From Words to Deeds’. The aim of the article is to present and highlight findings on the discrepancy between the policy of the ‘best interests’ principle and its implementation in the asylum application procedures at the Swedish Migration Board. There is a clear ambition to implement the principle of the best interests of the child in the Swedish asylum process. The Swedish Aliens Act and policy documents call for authorities and courts to give due weight to the best interests principle, mainly by taking children's own experiences into account and by analysing the potential impacts of the Board's decisions in individual cases.

However, several discrepancies between words and deeds were identified. Firstly, children were not heard to the extent expected in light of the Swedish legislation, and the children's individual grounds for asylum were seldom addressed in interviews with them. Secondly, children's responses were not taken seriously in the assessment of asylum claims. Finally, the ‘best interests’ paragraph in the legislation was mainly used to legitimate rejected asylum applications.

Despite the aspirations of civil servants to take individual children's needs and rights into account, a number of challenges often cause children's rights to be neglected. These include the officer's fear of reviving children's traumatic past experiences, mistrust regarding the grounds of asylum claims, and the lack of time caused by under-resourcing. The main finding drawn from the study is that, at the Migration Board, children's rights are treated as secondary to the national interest of keeping overall migration numbers down. A solution to this problem, presented in the article, would be to more clearly assess children's asylum claims in light of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Such a rights-based approach to the best interests of the child would help officials to act within their discretion.

Keywords: asylum; best interests of the child; children's rights; Convention on the Rights of the Child; Sweden

Journal Article.  9647 words. 

Subjects: Ethical Issues and Debates ; Human Rights and Immigration ; Human Rights ; Politics ; Social Movements and Social Change

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