Allow me take on an issue a bit sensitive. Children, adults and the right to protection. I don´t mean sensitive because racist parties and some politicians in the established parties think it is ok to violate international conventions and refuse to give those who need it the right to protection. That´s not sensitive, It´s just wrong and we need to fight it on order for a humane refugee policy to be made possible.
No, I mean the question of the right to protection for children and for adults. I came to think of it when I read an article in Aftenposten the other day. It was about the harsh debate in recent weeks in Norway, where deportations of children, mainly to Ethiopia, now is taking place. The article shows that a majority of respondents in a survey would like the ”asylumchildren” to be allowed to stay in Norway, but still want as tough or even tougher restrictions of the right to protection. A bit inconsistent, one might think. But not really.
It is a known phenomenon. Similar scenes have taken place in Sweden, both with regards to the apathetic children and the temporary asylum law a few years ago (for more on this see my article Critique of Sweden and the EU’s policy on refugees, only in Swedish). The children who no longer wanted to live and became apathetic raised much debate and a wave of support. The temporary asylum law focused on the child’s ties to Sweden and many families were allowed to stay in a retrial. For the sake of the children.
When people see what the consequences of the policy – in this case, the deportation of children to, to say the least, uncertain circumstances – they become compassionate, understanding and want to protect. But at the same time, the view that many or most people who seek protection do not really need it, or maybe even are here to ”exploit the system”, can live on relatively undisturbed.
That is often the logic for those who want to give the right to health care on equal terms, but only for children and not for undocumented adults. And for those who want to strengthen children’s rights to protection, but not women´s. Those who want to increase opportunities for children to stay, but to deport as many adults as today to war. And that’s probably how many of those who responded to the survey in Aftenposten are thinking. Probably without realizing it.
This is sometimes a dilemma for those of us working for a more humane refugee policy. If we focus on children’s rights to protection and dignified living conditions, it is easier to get popular support and accelerate reforms. But at the same time we are in danger of maintaining – or in some cases even enhancing – the view that the adult refugees do not really need protection. That they might even be putting their children’s safety at risk by coming here. But it’s not the children’s fault anyway.
Do not misunderstand me. I think it is right to raise all possible support for children’s right to protection. Their reasons for being granted asylum should not have to have, as stated in the Swedish Aliens Act ”the same seriousness and weight” as the ones of adults to be provided protection. And of course the Convention on the right of the child should become Swedish law (even if the deportation of refugee children in Norway shows that it is far from a general solution). The Norwegian Refugee Movement are, of course, quite right in focusing on the children and try to win every inch of public opinion that can be won. I myself have many times tried to contribute to a similar focus on children’s needs and rights of protection, not least in the Swedish cases mentioned above.
I just want to briefly point out that the right to protection from persecution is an individual human right. And it’s a big problem that Norway as well as Sweden systematically violates that right. For children, but also for adults. And we will never bring about a humane refugee policy until everyone who needs protection is entitled to it. That´s is the key to solving the dilemma. Promote the right to protection for everyone who needs it. Children but also adults.
Kalle Larsson, editor Flyktingbloggen