• Mette Strandhauge Bentsen
  • Line Davidsen Ibsen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis investigates the life of young unaccompanied asylum seekers on an asylum center for adults. In recent years young unaccompanied asylum seekers have represented a larger proportion of the total number of asylum seekers in Denmark compared to previous years (Udlændinge- og Integrationsministeriet 2017: 4; Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet 2016: 13). At the same time the public and political debate have shed light on the poor conditions for young unaccompanied asylum seekers. Research has concluded that young unaccompanied asylum seekers are considered a particularly vulnerable asylum-seeker group because they are separated from their families and often suffer from mental and physical disabilities (Christensen 2006: 37). Therefore, they are more prone to be affected by waiting time and uncertainty of the outcome of their asylum application (Vitus 2010: 39-40). Based on our interest in the area of asylum, especially young unaccompanied asylum seekers, and in cooperation with a municipal operator in asylum centers in Denmark, we designed the following research question:

How are the needs of young unaccompanied asylum seekers met when they move from an asylum center for children to an asylum center for adults and how can the inclusion of young people be improved in an asylum center for adults, so that the needs of the young people are met as far as possible?

We investigate the needs of young unaccompanied asylum seekers with reference to Erik Allardts Scandinavian welfare theory, where social problems are defined as lack of welfare due to lack of satisfaction of basic needs (Allardt 1975: 12). This thesis is based on qualitative interviews both focus group and single interviews with young unaccompanied asylum seekers, asylum seekers who are residents councilors and staff. Through a hermeneutical approach, we want to create an understanding of the informants' experiences. We interpret the empirical data in Erik Allardt and Axel Honneth's theoretical framework.
The first part of the analysis contains an analysis of the needs and situation of the young people, as well as the transition from the children's center to the center of residence, based on the perspectives of the young people and residents councilors. This analysis shows that young unaccompanied asylum seekers do not experience being recognized for their needs. The conditions that they live under, including uncertainty about what the future will bring, contributes to despair and meaninglessness. The young people experience systematic violations at the basis of their position as asylum seekers, they have limited rights and opportunities to participate in social communities, according to Honneths theoretical model (Honneth 2006: 175-179). Consequently, they have minimal possibilities for being included in communities at the asylum center as well as in the Danish society.
The second part of the analysis analyzes the social work at the asylum center. This includes how the employees of the asylum center understand the social work and their perspective on the opportunities and limitations they have in order to meet the needs of the young people - as well as the perspectives of the volunteer consultants on the opportunities for voluntary work in this regard. This analysis part clarifies that professionals experience having extremely limited opportunities to support and meet the needs of young unaccompanied asylum seekers and therefore increase their inclusion in community centers and in the Danish society. This is rooted in the structural framework in the area of asylum, which affects their ability to create new activity initiatives, and is further limited because of a low number of volunteers in the local area.

Throughout this thesis it emerged that the young people experienced lack of satisfaction of needs and thus lived under lack of welfare. Instead, their experiences were characterized by systematic violations. On the basis of Honneth's perspective, it can be discussed whether or not the young people have the opportunity to improve their situation. Because of their position as asylum seekers they experience legal and social exclusion from the Danish society and their systematic violations are not heard in political discourse and are suppressed by the political system (Honneth 2006: 17, 184). Therefore, it is necessary to change the overall structural and policy framework in order to create better conditions for young unaccompanied asylum seekers. We hope that our research will highlight this issue and thus be a step towards better conditions for young unaccompanied asylum seekers.
Publication date1 Aug 2017
Number of pages105
ID: 261077675