• Maria Vestergaard Aabye
  • Line Sophia Jensen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
In the spring of 2013 a new asylum agreement was implemented in the Danish Aliens Act. The agreement contains the possibility for asylum seekers in Denmark to live outside the asylum centres after a period of six month. With this amendment the conditions for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers changed. Before, unaccompanied minor asylum seekers with family living in the country could stay with their family as soon as arriving to Denmark. This was an opportunity if it was in the best interest of the child. Now they have to live in an asylum centre for six month while their application is being processed before they can live with their family. This new situation demands that unaccompanied minor asylum seekers have the competences to handle these circumstances.

The first part of this thesis address the rights of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Denmark compared to other children in Denmark. We point out examples concerning the academic level in the asylum schools and how it is generally much lower than in Danish elementary schools. These differences hold the unaccompanied minor asylum seekers from having access to higher education in the same extent as Danish children. In addition we find that the Danish Alien Act is concerned about the fact that asylum seekers should stay in asylum centres. This dominates the idea that children should grow up in a family environment. This is in spite of the fact, that this particular right normally characterize the Danish Act on Social Services and the UNCRC.

The second, and primary, part of the thesis is based on qualitative analyses of interviews with four unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. They all have family in Denmark, but due to the amendment in the Aliens Act, they are held from staying with the family in a period of up to six month. We are interested in how these children experience and handle their situation. In this matter we include the theoretical perspectives of Suniya S. Luthar, Aaron Antonovsky and Hilchen Sommerschild, and their theories of coping and resilience.

We find that the minors activates and use different coping strategies in their attempt to withstand some of the adverse factors that life in an asylum centre offers. We find that these coping strategies depend on their sense of coherence.
Especially a tough and violent environment where drugs and alcohol sometimes dominates the atmosphere at the centre seems to be hard to handle. This life is far from the life they had expected with their family in Denmark. We also find that their experiences of being put aside in their own life are another dominating vulnerability factor.

Despite these vulnerable factors, we find that our informants are handling their life situation okay. They seem to be able to use different internal and external resources, which helps them to activate and use their coping strategies. Especially the fact that they have family living in the country, who offers them comfort and mentally support, seem to be a protective factor for the unaccompanied minors. For example the family reminds them of their cultural background. But the lack of this protective factor in the every day life is on the other hand very hard to accept and deal with. The fact that the family live close to them, and at the same time are unavailable due to the amendment is hard to understand and deal with. In extension to this, we find that the longing for the family may become so dominant that it can hinder their coping skills.
To cope with the absence of the family, we find that the minors use the adults affiliated with the center. These employees give them somewhat care and adult presence in their everyday life. In addition we find that competences like social skills, sports and activities are important and works as pastime and as a break from the serious and severe situation that dominates their life as unaccompanied minor asylum seeker.

Overall, we find that these minor asylum seekers have a life that requires great coping skills in a life already characterized by uncertainty, anxiety and traumatic experiences. Hereby we find it hard to explain the logical reasons why these children should be exposed to further adversities in an asylum centre. Based on our study, it seems that the logic of the Aliens Act are more based on considerations of border control, than to the interest of the child. These considerations lead us to the conclusion that the new circumstances for accommodations for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers with family living in the country should be reviewed. Concerns for the child and interests of the child should be the same for children seeking asylum and Danish children.
Publication date3 Sept 2014
Number of pages113
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 203985408