“Unaccompanied minors are a resourceful group that we ought to engage with.”
Isabella Canow grew tired of politicians and authorities so often talking about unaccompanied children but talking too seldom with them. She saw the potential in the unaccompanied minors, and wanted to create a platform where they could express their own ideas and opinions. The result was SEF – Sveriges ensamkommandes förening (Swedish Association for Unaccompanied Minors)
Tell us a little about SEF’s background!
“SEF was started as part of the project Prata med oss, inte om oss (Talk with us, not about us). I got the idea when I was interviewing children who were placed in foster care. Some of the children were unaccompanied, and I realised that this was a very resourceful group that we ought to engage with. Instead we come with a superior attitude and think we know what’s best for them without even asking them. SEF is the first charity that is both directed towards and run by unaccompanied minors.”
What sort of work does SEF do?
“To a large degree, it’s up to each local group to decide what they want to spend their time on. Amongst other things, it’s about organising activities, offering mentoring for unaccompanied Children/young people, monitoring issues that have to do with unaccompanied children/young people, and lecturing for other organisations and the authorities.”
What issues are the most important for SEF to get involved in?
“There are several political issues that are important to us. For example, the treatment of unaccompanied refugees in their asylum seeking process and also issues to do with the Dublin Regulation—an EU directive that allows for children to be sent back to the first country in Europe they came to. That is, in many cases, Cyprus, Italy, or Malta, countries where the children are often homeless and without food or provision. Many unaccompanied minors say they’d rather take their lives than return there.”
Isabella Canow’s knowledge and enthusiasm is obvious, but she points out that it’s the young people themselves that make the charity work. So far SEF is running in Stockholm, Umeå, and Malmö, and has a total of 200 members. The vision is that the charity will grow to become a national organisation with local groups in many more cities.