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Small Children in Norwegian Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers - Special Care or Equal Rights? Associate Professor Kirsten Lauritsen Metropolis Workshop:

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Presentation on theme: "Small Children in Norwegian Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers - Special Care or Equal Rights? Associate Professor Kirsten Lauritsen Metropolis Workshop:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Small Children in Norwegian Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers - Special Care or Equal Rights? Associate Professor Kirsten Lauritsen Metropolis Workshop: Children in exile: Interethnic relations and daily life

2 Equal rights to an early education What characterizes the situation for small children and their families in today’s Norwegian asylum centres? How does Norway implement UN’s Convention on the rights of the Child (CRC), more specifically when it comes to early education for children in asylum centres?

3 Children in Norwegian reception centres, July 2011 AgeNumbers 0 – – – Adults12200 In total16245

4 Largest groups by Nov.2010 CountryNumbers Afghanistan3015 Eritrea2245 Somalia1778 Russia1633 Iraq1515 Ethiopia1095 Stateless1037 Iran949 Nigeria386

5 Children’s rights - CRC Norwegian authorities are obliged to follow CRC on children’s rights – for all children: – no discrimination – to be heard and respected – the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration – survival and development of the child, – Education and participation

6 The situation… Asylum-seeking children are in a vulnarable situation, because both they and their care- takers – are in a subordinate position, with little or no opportunities to negotiate their own legal status – lack social networks most children growing up in Norway have – lack knowledge about the legal frameworks and the majority language

7 Government framework for children in reception centers At least one employee should have a university/university college degree on children’s development and education All children under the age of 16 have a right to school if they are in the country more than 3months 4-5 year-olds are entitled to a free full-day program in a kindergarten 0-3 year-olds are entitled to an educational program at the asylum centre for at least three hours a day, often involving parents participation

8 Research on children in asylum centres Back in 1999 we found that the life of children to a large extent was influenced by the parents’ situation, for better or for worse (Lauritsen & Berg 1999).Lauritsen & Berg 1999 The asylum centre is ment to be for a shorter period of time, which makes it difficult to form long-term, stable social bonds Changing residents and an uncertain life situation may have a negative effect on the children’s social development

9 Newer research Hilde Lidén found that many chldren in asylum centres have psychological problems, several were trauamtized, as were some of their parents. Uncertainty, fear, small rooms and frustrated parents characterized the life of many children. Half of the 52 asylum centres in her study had sent children to get help from child psychiatrists.

10 Research… Seeberg et al.’s survey (2009)points out that children’s lives in the reception centre is characterized by temporality and linguistic diversity. Seeberg et al.’s The lack of common living rooms for children ment that they had to play in the family's 15– 20 m 2 room, that had to function as bedroom, living room, dining room, and room for children of all ages for nursing activities, school work or play

11 Children in asylum centres (Liden et al 2011) Denmark: increased risk of mental problems Sweden: parents feel alone with the parental challenges and try to protect their children Norway: children's active participation in other arenas than the reception centre "represent other realities of the children who seem to give them the resilience to cope with a difficult situation“…

12 The research confirms largely impressions from earlier surveys, including a lack of full educational program for many of the children, but at the same time put emphasis on children's coping ability. The educational programs for small children at the asylum centres, were found to be highly variable, and work more as a kind of child care while parens attend Norwegian classes, than an educational program containing early education for smaller children

13 No stabile structure for the content of the educational program for smaller children, no systematic language training, neither for the children’s mother tongue or Norwegian. No diversion from the everyday life together with adults in a difficult life situation Smaller children are the least involved in other social activities outside of the centres Little that supported giving structure to the children’s daily lives

14 For the majority… The child group becomes more culturally diverse, majority parents and children gain an experience that is important in a culturally diverse society, and the staff has a possibility to develop important insight and competence through the experience with a diverse group of children, and the cooperation with parents and staff from the reception centre.

15 Challenges and conditions Kindergartens are more expensive than the offer for smaller children at the asylum centre Frequent shifts among the children from the reception centre poses a challenge for the staff and the children in a kindergarten A good educational program require a kindergarten staff with a necessary competence to work with a culturally and lingustically diverse child group. Their training should contain subjects such as cultural diversity, refugee studies and bilingualism.

16 A kindergarten for all? The CRC claims that all children living in Norway should have the same rights. The recent Norwegian kindergarten reform aimed at providing kindergarten for all children in Norway, but does not, so far, include children from asylum centres. The reform aimed at strengthening children’s development, provide equal rights to all children and equalize differences before school. If these goals do not apply for children in asylum centres, this means that the most vulnerable groups in our country today, do not have ”equal rights”.

17 Equal rights? Small children in asylum centres risk loosing years of training, that might have given them reliefe in their situation here and now, prevent psychological problems and strengthen their personal and linguistic development towards school life, in Norway or in another country. Kindergarten programs for these children might be a profitable investment, in life quality for the children and their parents – and in a long-term social benefit. It is also a prerequisite for ensuring all children ”equal rights” and a right to development and education, as demanded by the UN’s Convention on the rights of the Child (CRC).


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