Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are children and young people under 18 years of age who arrive in Norway to seek asylum unaccompanied by parents or other persons who have parental responsibility for them. They are a particularly vulnerable group with other needs and other rights than adult asylum seekers. The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has care responsibility for applicants aged 15 to 18, while the Child Welfare Service is responsible for those under 15.
Separate reception units
The UDI has care responsibility for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers aged 15 to 18 years. They stay in separate reception centres or separate units adapted to their age and needs. The UDI stipulates strict requirements for the reception centre’s work with unaccompanied minors. They are to be well cared for and have a safe and meaningful everyday life. Unaccompanied minors under 15 years of age stay in separate care centres run by the Child Welfare Service.
The asylum process
Asylum applications from unaccompanied minors are assessed based on a child perspective. This means, among other things, that the threshold for what is deemed to constitute persecution is lower for children than for adults, because children can tolerate less.
The UDI gives priority to applications from unaccompanied minor asylum seekers because we feel that it is in the best interest of the child that their cases are decided as soon as possible.
Read more about the case processing for asylum applications.
A provisional guardian or guardian is appointed for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers by the Office of the Public Guardian in the municipality in which he/she is staying. If it is certain that the parents are dead, a guardian is appointed. In other cases, a provisional guardian is appointed. Guardians and provisional guardians have the same function in relation to unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
A provisional guardian shall safeguard the child’s due process protection and be their support person during the asylum process. They are to help with the preparation for the asylum interview, and make sure that the interview is carried out in a satisfactory manner. The provisional guardian should also be in contact with the child's lawyer and keep up-to-date about the asylum case.
Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are entitled to a lawyer throughout the asylum process. This right also applies if there is an appeal. The lawyer is appointed by the UDI. Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers that are deemed to be clearly of age following the age examination are not entitled to a lawyer throughout the asylum process.
In some cases, there is doubt as to whether the applicant has given his/her correct age. When we are in doubt about the age of an asylum seeker – and particularly if the person seems older than 18 – we will ask him or her to consent to an age examination to substantiate his/her age.
Today, an age examination consists of a medical age assessment examination and general observation. The medical age examination comprises X-ray examination of the teeth and the carpus. This is a voluntary examination, but it may have a bearing on the UDI's assessment of the applicant's age if he/she does not wish to have the examination.
The UDI takes the margin of error inherent in these examinations into consideration, and carries out an overall assessment including a number of elements. If it is our conclusion that the applicant is over 18 years of age, this could have consequences both in relation to the assessment of the asylum application and the type of reception centre that the applicant will be offered accommodation in.
Read more about age assessment
Tracing and family immigration
Some of the unaccompanied minor asylum seekers who come to Norway have parents or other care providers in their home country. If we conclude that the unaccompanied minor does not need protection, we will consider whether it is in the child's best interest to be reunited with his/her family or to return to another satisfactory care situation in his/her home country.
The unaccompanied minor asylum seeker can be granted a residence permit in Norway on grounds of strong humanitarian considerations if we are unable to trace the child’s family. This only applies to asylum seekers who are actually minors. We cannot return a minor unless a satisfactory care situation has been found for the applicant.
If the parents or persons who exercise parental responsibility are later found, the case may be reconsidered. It will also be difficult for such applicants to be granted family reunification in Norway.
Children and young people who are expected to stay in Norway for more than three months have a right and a duty to attend primary or lower secondary education. The reception centre registers all children under the age of 16 at the primary or lower secondary school. The host municipalities receive grants for these pupils. Young people between 16 and 18 years of age are entitled to tuition in Norwegian language and social studies, and may also be entitled to tuition in primary or lower secondary school subjects with a view to taking lower secondary school exams. The reception centres cooperate with the schools and organise assistance with homework.
Unaccompanied minors who are granted residence in Norway are to be settled in a municipality. The Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) is responsible for settling unaccompanied minors over 15 years of age, while the Norwegian Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs settles those under 15 years of age. The goal is for settlement to take place within three months of the UDI deciding that the child can stay in Norway.