Abstract

This article concerns legal representatives’ negotiations around the principle of children’s best interests and children’s right to participation according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in cases of families applying for asylum in Sweden. Using material from nine interviews with children’s advocates, we analyse their strategies for obtaining narratives from children without putting them in a vulnerable position and examine the tension between migration control and children’s interests. The study shows that children are often assumed to be adequately represented by their parents and that they are perceived as ‘people out of place’ in the asylum process. The right to a customised asylum process, in which children’s needs and perspectives are taken into consideration, tends to be overlooked. Also, the principle of children’s best interests is overshadowed by an ambition to prepare the parents’ claims for asylum in a credible and strategic manner or it may be used as a last resort when all other efforts to get an application granted have been exhausted. In addition, although representatives occasionally develop successful ways of bringing child-specific persecution to the attention of the migration authorities, bureaucratic, and economic barriers constitute a limitation. This ultimately results in the child’s right to seek asylum being overshadowed by the state’s highly technical migration control.

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