The report provides a review of legal and procedural standards for child migrants and refugees and how these are applied in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The study shows how in these countries there is a "clear tendency to give migration law precedence over the Convention on the Rights of the Child".
Inadequate system of protection
The study shows that in many cases, those responsible for migration services are the ones who make critical decisions and coordinate urgent assistance for children, rather than specialists in child protection. As a result, an adequate evaluation of the best interests of the child "is not uniformly respected for all asylum-seeking children," UNICEF said. It said guardianship is a key safeguarding mechanism for unaccompanied minors; however, in some cases, there is an "inadequate protection system between the management of the guardians and services for migration."
While Nordic countries already have consolidated mechanisms to allow children's opinions to be taken into consideration, asylum-seeking children are given "only sporadic and inconsistent opportunities to make their voices heard."
Asylum-seeking children generally also have access to basic medical care, but the true extent of healthcare services available to families "varies widely between countries and cities." The majority of Nordic school systems have been facing the arrival of refugee children since 2015, but "legal and administrative barriers often cause too long of a wait prior to entering into the state school system."
Among the recommendations put forth by the study, UNICEF highlighted the importance of reaffirming the priority on the Convention on the Rights of the Child over migration and asylum law, and ensuring that laws and policies take asylum-seeking children into account. The organization also calls for removing barriers that prevent asylum-seeking children from rapidly enrolling in schools, ensuring access to equitable healthcare services, eliminating any residency requirement for access to services to ensure they are open to asylum-seeking women and children when necessary, and reviewing services for legal protection to ensure it is available to every asylum-seeking child.