Children who cross national borders

The Child Welfare Service's Responsibilities

Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, children subjected to human trafficking and child welfare services across national borders.

Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers

The state child welfare service is to offer care centre accommodation to all unaccompanied asylum seekers under the age of 15 years. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration is responsible for offering unaccompanied minor asylum seekers over the age of 15 years a place in a reception centre for unaccompanied minors or in a separate department linked to an ordinary asylum reception centre. 

Care centres for unaccompanied asylum seekers under the age of 15 years are to give the children the necessary care and security and ensure that they receive the follow-up and treatment they require. This means, among other things, following up in relation to schools, health services, etc. The child is to be cared for at the care centre until the immigration authorities reach a decision on the asylum case and the child is settled in a municipality or leaves the country. 

The Norwegian Child Welfare Act applies to all children in Norway irrespective of their residency status. If the child welfare service receives a report concerning a child who has the status of an asylum seeker, the report is to be followed up in accordance with the same procedures as those which apply to other child welfare cases. 

The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion has prepared a circular called: The child welfare service's responsibility for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers and other minors in reception centres, care centres and municipalities. 

Unaccompanied minor refugees

Municipalities can today organise the work relating to unaccompanied minor refugees as they wish. The municipalities' settlement obligations are now included in section 3-4 of the Child Welfare Act, which states that the municipalities are to assess the individual unaccompanied minor's needs and provide suitable housing for unaccompanied minors on this basis. If there are grounds for this, the child welfare service is to "… carry out an assessment of individual needs and provide suitable housing measures on this basis". 

Various financial schemes have been established for municipalities that settle unaccompanied minor refugees. Responsibility for these schemes has been divided among various ministries. The three largest schemes are:

  • refunds of municipal expenses relating to child welfare measures
  • special grants to the municipalities for settlement (cf section 9-8 of the Child Welfare Act)
  • integration grants

 

Children subjected to human trafficking

Children who are subjected to human trafficking are to be given good help. Combating human trafficking in children is a prioritised area for the government. The exploitation of children through human trafficking seriously infringes human rights and is a serious form of crime. The child welfare service has an important responsibility for children who may be subjected to human trafficking in Norway. 

The Child Welfare Act was amended in 2012 in order to provide better protection and care to children who it is suspected are subjected to human trafficking. The new provisions mean that children who are subjected to human trafficking can be placed in a child welfare institution without consent. The objective is to safeguard the child's immediate need for protection. The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs and Oslo municipality have developed an especially adapted institutional service for this group of vulnerable children. 

Human trafficking is an important topic internationally and the government wants to contribute to collaboration in this area. Through, among other things, the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), Norway is a member of an expert group on children at risk (EGCC) which has human trafficking as one of its prioritised areas. The CBSS has a separate group (the Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-TBH)) that works to prevent the human trafficking of adults. 

A separate circular has been prepared regarding the protection of children who are subjected to human trafficking. Circulars are to be revised in 2015, among other things on the basis of the new provisions in the Child Welfare Act. Communication and cooperation between affected authorities is a key part of this work. A research project involving minor victims of human trafficking has been initiated. A report will be published in mid-2015.  

 

Child welfare services across national borders

The Child Welfare Act applies to all children who live in Norway, irrespective of the child's nationality, residency status or background. All children living in Norway are entitled to protection against abuse and neglect. 

The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have meetings with foreign authorities (embassies) at which information is provided on the Norwegian child welfare service , the rights that children and parents have in child welfare cases and the frameworks for consular assistance in child welfare cases. Norway does not enter into bilateral agreements regarding child welfare – child welfare cases must be resolved within the frameworks determined by Norwegian law. Foreign embassies may not be parties to child welfare cases. 

Norway is in the process of ratifying the Hague Convention of 1996: an international convention concerning protection measures for children with links to several countries. This convention will provide a solid, useful framework for resolving international child welfare cases in the best way for the child. Webpages containing information about child welfare cases that involve foreign nationals will be published shortly. The target groups are foreign authorities (embassies), child welfare authorities and the public in general. In the first instance, the information will be translated into English.