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Hiding in Plain Sight’: Daily Strategies and Fear Management among Undocumented Refugee Children in Sweden

Journal article
Authors Åsa Wahlström Smith
Published in Journal of Refugee Studies
Volume 31
Issue 4
Pages 588-604
ISSN 0951-6328
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Pages 588-604
Language en
Keywords flyktingbarn i papperslös situation. Undocumented refugee children, Sweden, invisibility, social strategies.
Subject categories Social Anthropology, Globalization Studies, Children


Undocumented refugee children live a paradoxical existence, excluded from the right to remain in Sweden while at the same time holding formal rights to education and health. Building on long-term ethnographic research with 19 undocumented children aged 6 to 17, my analysis shows that children carry a pivotal role in hiding their own and the family’s whereabouts and migration status. The concept of invisibility is used to explain the political and social forces at play in relation to which undocumented refugee children attempt to hide ‘in plain sight’. To maintain social invisibility, I suggest, children must work out whom to reveal their undocumented refugee status to, in both close and distant social relationships. The issue of undocumented migrant children’s access to human rights within the local authority is discussed, as well as children’s active role in contributing to and transforming the undocumented migration situation.

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