Experiences as lawyer of unaccompanied minor refugees Bente Oftedal Roli Legal advice and guardian • Minor asylum seekers are entitled to lawyer from the moment they are registered as asylum seekers in Norway and not only in case of appeal. • Legal guardian is also appointed just after arrival to the transit camp. • When a child is moved to a new camp, the legal guardian is mostly dismissed and a new one in one will be appointed. The responsibility for minor asylum seekers is divided between National Child Protection Services (Barnevernet) and The Immigration Authorities(UDI). • The responsibility for the children is organized due to age and if they come through/from a country under the Dublin convention or not. • National Child Protection Services has the responsibility for minors less then 15 years of age and The Immigration Authorities for those between 15 and 18 years old. • National Child Protection Services are regulated by the law of Child Protection with legal standards and the care for asylum seekers is the same as for Norwegians children not living with their parents. Different standards for minors between 15 and 18 years old • Minors between 15 and 18 years of age have a very different standard under The Immigration Authorities(UDI). The organization of the camps and daily life are made through a numerous directives and regulations and all standards are below the standard the norms of institutions run by National Child Protection Services. • Minors are staying in the camp on a “voluntary basis” and there is no legal standards to be applied or to stop them or look into the case if they want to move out. • The camps are mostly run by private enterprises on commercial bases. • In this camps there is no legal standards to the competence and number of staff required and it is for 0,34 -0,56 persons per minor. There is no requirement that the staff shall have any knowledge or professional background on working with children. • At institutions run by National Child Protection Services it is 2,7 persons for each minor. National Child Protection Services have procedures for what to do when a minor disappears and this is quite different when minors disappears from the camps of The Immigration Authorities(UDI). Disappeared minor asylum seekers in risk of abuse or trafficking In 2013, 240 minor asylum seekers disappeared. Number of disappeared children (2010-2014) Fylke 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Totalsum Totalsum 52 34 82 72 8 248 AKERSHUS 12 18 39 12 2 83 AUST-AGDER 3 2 1 0 0 6 BUSKERUD 7 0 0 0 0 7 HEDMARK 5 0 0 1 0 6 MØRE OG ROMSDAL 2 3 13 9 1 28 NORDLAND 2 4 2 1 NORDTRØNDELAG 0 1 0 5 0 6 OPPLAND 8 0 0 1 1 10 OSLO 0 1 3 2 0 6 ROGALAND 0 1 2 2 0 5 SOGN OG FJORDANE 0 0 1 0 0 1 SØRTRØNDELAG 0 0 1 0 0 1 9 Status by disappearing (Source: UDI) Status by disappearance 2013 2014 Total 72 8 Application in process 41 7 Appeal in process after negative 10 Duty to leave the country 16 With limited residence permit 5 1 Time from arrival to disappearance (Source: UDI) Time from arrival to disappearance 2013 2014 Total 72 8 Within a month 35 4 1 - 3 months 15 2 4 - 12 months 16 2 Over a year 6 • About 1000 minors applied for asylum in Norway in 2013 and 104 left the camp. 72 of these have disappeared and one do not know where they are or what has happened to them. • 41 disappeared before getting an answer in their case. 35 (almost 50%) of the children disappeared the first month in Norway and more 15 children during the first 3 months. • Only 5 of the children in institution under National Child Protection were lost. Who, how and why do the minors leave the camp? • From my experience, there are many that leave the camps when they learn that they will risk to be sent back to one of the other EU Member State as a country they have stayed in or just passed. Rather early in the asylum process it becomes clear that The Immigration Authorities(UDI) will apply the Dublin convention. These children will mostly remain in the transit camp and are easily recruited to all kinds of abuse as criminal activities, sexual abuse and prostitution. • As their lawyer, I sometimes get in touch with them after they are registered as disappeared. They may contact med directly or through “Uteseksjonen” (Outdoor service working at the street) but with little possibility to help. • Another similar group are the children that have got a temporary permit valid till their 18th birthday. In 2013, 5 of the disappeared belonged to this group. The residence permit might be renewed for a year at the time after being 18 years in some conditions, but they keep on “staying temporary”. The permanent stress this implicates can easily lead a minor in to the danger of abuse. • Some minors run away because of the difficulties they face in the camp or because they have got their first negative and do not believe the appeal will result. Some of the camps are overcrowded, with mix of adults and youngsters with severe conflicts. Non-refoulment • Among the “Dublin Children”, many have in their applications for asylum given detailed statements of abuse and lack of care they have been exposed to in other European countries. This has been often been the main reason for fleeing to Norway. When this information is given in the appeal, it is very rare enough to grant a residence permit. • For several years this was the case with the children coming to Norway from Greece. The majority of these children were returned to Greece until EMD stopped all returns to Greece. • Children coming from Italy had similar experiences and reported inhuman condition, living on the street, etc. • This was never looked into by Norwegian authorities and they were all returned. As an example I had a 16 years old client who clearly expressed that he would kill himself if he was returner to Switzerland. When he got his negative he disappeared. I was contacted by the UDI who waited for the final appeal. When I informed them again that the boy had disappeared and I could not get in touch with him, I was told that he was in prison. But nobody knew which prison. Eventually I found him in a prison in Bergen. He had then stayed there for 4 days and had two serious suicide attempts intending to hang himself in the cell, but neither, a doctor, local National Child Protection Services, his legal Guardian or his lawyer were informed. He was few days later considered not acute suicidal and deported with the company of two police officers. What has later happened to him has not been possible to find out. When returned • When minors between 15 and 18 years are returned, it seems not to be taken any measures except contact with the police to receive them when they arrive. • In my cases I have seen little or no attempt to find the minors family or guardian to receive them. • It is my impression that little or nothing is done to follow-up a child after being returned. • A child`s appointed legal guardian in Norway has little influence on the procedure and their job is finished when a child is returned. • Minors that have got there asylum but later on get in contact with their parents, risks being sent out as they are considered not to be in need of care. (That is an ongoing case at the moment.) Summary and recommendations • The National Child Protection Services must be responsible for all minors, not only the minors less than 15 years of age. • The Dublin Convention must be suspended for minor asylum seekers. • No minor must be returned to home country or country of origin without the guaranty of a legal guardian to follow up from arrival. • Norway need to check up afterwards later on, to see if the conditions are fulfilled.