The Danish National Council for Children: It is a big task for municipalities to help unaccompanied minor refugees

Denmark is presently experiencing a growing number of children under 18 who are fleeing their homeland and coming to Denmark on their own. They wish very much to be a part of the Danish society, and they have clear ideas about what they need to get a good life in Denmark. However, it is far from easy, according to a new study by the Danish National Council for Children that shed light on the children´s experiences.

It takes resources and strength to flee alone and at the same time, most of the unaccompanied children come to Denmark with harsh experiences. For some of the young, the first time in Denmark has been unsafe and they have met mistrust from the authorities. However, some have met professionals and volunteers who have made ​​a positive difference.

This is the result of a study made by the Danish National Council for Children, “You need both help and luck”, supported by VELUX FONDEN. The study shows how unaccompanied minor refugees experience their arrival in Denmark, the trip through the asylum system and the way into Danish society.

"The children and young people coming alone as refugees to Denmark is an extremely vulnerable group, and they are entitled to special protection. Therefore, we must also listen to those who have already gone through the system, so we can receive the children in the best way possible. It is a huge task for professionals and authorities to help these children and young people to a good start in Denmark", says Per Larsen, President for the Danish National Council.

The municipalities play a key role

The young people are very concerned about building a normal everyday life with education, leisure activities and friends. However, it is difficult to understand the Danish society and establish contact with ethnic Danes. In addition, the young emphasize unanimously, how important it is to have someone to talk to and turn to for support. Furthermore, they miss friendship families and mentors.

"It is abundantly clear that young people are totally dependent on getting the right help from the beginning. It is important that the local authorities take the responsibility. It is not sufficient to give the volunteers the responsibility. The municipalities must ensure the quality and guarantee the continuity of the support provided to young people", says Per Larsen.

According to Per Larsen is also important to look at the municipalities' individual starting point to solve the problem: "Some municipalities are accustomed to receiving unaccompanied refugees, while others receive very few. Therefore, experience is very varied from municipality to municipality. The Danish National Council for Children believes that municipalities will benefit more from exchange of experience and the possibility of getting advice from others".

The residence permit should be valid for a longer period

There is enormous pressure associated with having to apply to get your residence permit renewed or apply for a new one. Zakir, who came to Denmark at age 12, explains it this way: "It's just extremely difficult when you grow up in a country where there is war and people may have psychological problems. How will they manage to get, for example, a one-year temporary residence permit and try to integrate? You need both help and luck".

Therefore, the Council considers that residence permits for children should be valid until they turn 18 years and for the oldest of the minor refugees, it should be valid for a minimum of two years at a time. This model would create far more continuity in the lives of young people, so they can concentrate on developing personal and professional skills that will prepare them for life as an adult.

About the study

In the spring of 2015, The Danish National Council for Children established a group of experts consisting of six young unaccompanied refugees with residence permits. Out of the six young are five boys and one girl, and the young people were between 16 and 21 years old when they first participated in the expert group meetings. Five of the young are originally from Afghanistan and one is originally from Iran. When the meetings began, the young people had been in Denmark between seven months and seven years.

For further information

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