This dissertation explores how waiting for asylum response is experienced by young unaccompanied minors between the ages of 15 and 18 by asking: How is it like to be an unaccompanied minor waiting for asylum response in Norway?
This dissertation is based on both the teenagerâ€™s descriptions of their lived experiences of waiting for asylum and their teachers experiences of teaching them. The dissertation explores waiting as a human experience adding to the body of knowledge the nuanced existential understandings of waiting. Based on the young unaccompanied minorsâ€™ description of waiting and their teachersâ€™ descriptions of their dilemmas and challenges of teaching them, this PhD dissertation explores what it means to be an unaccompanied teenager waiting for asylum in Norway in four studies.
Three aspects of this dissertation are brought forward, what it means to construct the identity of unaccompanied minors, waiting as experienced by unaccompanied teenagers and teachersâ€™ pedagogical realities of teaching these teenagers. To achieve this, I use policy discourse analysis and content analysis in study one to show that even though it is necessary to communicate about this category of newcomers within Norwegian policy (2004-2016), the constructed identity glosses over the actual individual realities and vulnerabilities of seeking asylum as an unaccompanied minor. The empirical studies (studies two and three), show that waiting for asylum responses was undefined both legally and politically from the onset. The expectation that waiting for asylum would be easier and the process faster was thwarted by uncertainty and an ambivalent reception. This situation does not change as time goes by. Instead the unaccompanied teenagers are longing for such qualities as goodness, a home that has qualities of a home and to be able to be at home in the new language- Norwegian. When these qualities that could have made waiting bearable are missing, these teenagers are rendered invisible within the Norwegian society and school.
In study four we explore and show that the encounter between the teacher and the unaccompanied teenagers brings to the core the vulnerable other- unaccompanied children. Pedagogical dilemmas and challenges of encountering strangeness and foreignness are raised to point out the aporetic nature of pedagogic and teaching- where one has to have room for the unexpected happenings and accommodate them.
Both the empirical studies (Studies Two, Three and Four) and the explorative study (Study One), sustain the idea that, waiting is situated, personal and difficult, more so to vulnerable and unaccompanied young people seeking asylum, especially when it is uncertain and beyond them. Thus, their experiences are meaningful, contextual and there is a possibility to encounter them in pedagogical ways that speaks to their humanness. What is made explicit in this dissertation is that all children matter, regardless of where they come from, and as fellow human-beings, especially adults, we have an enduring responsibility to encounter them as human-beings worthy of humanity.