Legal representation of unaccompanied children


Country Report: Legal representation of unaccompanied children Last updated: 21/04/21


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All unaccompanied children have the right to be represented by a guardian as soon as they have lodged an asylum claim. The law also requires that legal counsel be appointed promptly. Guardians need to be persons of high moral character and may come from different social backgrounds.

Every municipality, which is the responsible entity for the reception of unaccompanied children, has a “chief guardian” (överförmyndare) whose role is to assess a person’s suitability to be a guardian. General knowledge of managing personal finances and common sense, combined with a personal and social involvement, are considered appropriate qualities. There is a specific law covering the duties of the guardian.[1]

There is no time limit for the appointment of a guardian. Guardians are reimbursed for their costs and also receive a nominal fee from municipalities. No requirements about formal education or specialist knowledge in the field of asylum are imposed prior to eligible for appointment. All guardians are appointed by the chief guardian in the municipality and in many cases, are frequently offered basic training courses. There are also national organisations for guardians that also organise courses and exchange views and experiences. Both established NGOs in the field of asylum and the Migration Agency offer courses for guardians.

No differences are made between Dublin cases, manifestly unfounded cases or regular procedure cases regarding the right to a guardian. Every unaccompanied child is assigned a guardian but, should an age assessment lead to the person being considered an adult, the assignment ceases despite the fact that the age assessment decision can be appealed and has therefore not gained legal force. In certain cases, courts have pointed out that this practice is not in line with legal principles. The Administrative Court of Gothenburg handed down a decision recognising that a child who had had his age adjusted to over 18 was still in the appeal procedure and that the decision on his age had not gained legal force. Therefore he should still have the right to a guardian during that period.[2]

The number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum has plummeted from around 34,000 in 2015 to 1,336 in 2017; further decreasing to 944 in 2018, 902 in 2019 and to 500 in 2020.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children: 2020
Country of origin Number of applicants
Syria  108
Afghanistan  85
Somalia  69
Morocco  62
Eritrea  25
Other  151
Total  500

Source: Swedish Migration Agency, Inkomna ansökningar om asyl, 2020, available in Swedish at:

[1]           Lag (2005:429) om god man för ensamkommande barn, available at:

[2]           Administrative Court of Gothenburg, Decision 4737-15, 28 June 2016.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – I Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation