The asylum–child welfare paradox: Unaccompanied minors in Austria

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Existing research shows that right-wing populist imaginaries and discourses on "bogus asylum seekers" mobilise feelings of fear and panic and serve to legitimise increasingly restrictive asylum policies in Europe. In light of this ongoing development, this paper addresses a more intrinsic and structural aspect of asylum, which requires balancing the inclusion and exclusion of persecuted third-country nationals. This paradox is most evident with unaccompanied minors who are caught between state norms and practices that are both exclusionary and repressive (asylum) and inclusive and caring (child welfare). In order to tackle this dilemma, we explore how the asylum-child welfare paradox is organised and formalised by the state and how it affects unaccompanied minors. Based on interviews with unaccompanied minors in Austria and experts who work with them, the findings show that child and youth welfare norms and practices that are formalised as part of the asylum procedure improve unaccompanied minors' living conditions without dismantling asylum norms and practices of surveillance, conditionality, and scarcity. Judging by their simultaneous implementation, the state preserves and reinforces exclusionary and repressive asylum norms not despite but through child welfare norms and practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number206
Number of pages8
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2021

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 504003 Poverty and social exclusion
  • 506016 Migration policy
  • 506015 Asylum policy



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