Unaccompanied minors and court mandated institutional care: A national registry-based study in Sweden

Mojgan Padyab, Malin Eriksson, Mehdi Ghazinour, Lena Lundgren - Children and Youth Services Review



Sweden received, in 2016, 40% of EUs asylum seeking unaccompanied minors (UAM) (individuals less than 18 years of age). Some of these youth end up in a court mandated compulsory-care institution within months upon their arrival. A key concern is the appropriateness of UAMs ending up in an institutional care system which is aimed at youth with significant criminal justice, violence and/or drug problems. A second concern is that UAMs in compulsory care may display behavioral and acting out behaviors while in care due to their history of trauma and confusion regarding being institutionalized. The research question examined is whether UAMs in compulsory care receive more restrictive actions by compulsory care staff compared to their counterparts who are non-UAMs.

Materials and methods

The research team used national compulsory-care registry data from 2014-2016 to compare a range of restrictive actions taken by institution staff between UAMs versus non-UAMs while in care. Differences in the rate of compulsory care restrictive actions reported between UAMs and non-UAMs, while in care, were examined using chi-square test and Poisson regression methods.


A total of 2398 children and youth were placed in compulsory institutional care during the study period, of whom 423 (17.5%) were unaccompanied. The Poisson regression model identified that being subjected to body search, limited body inspection, drug use testing, and care in locked unit were used significantly less often for UAMs individuals compared to non-AUMs. In addition, repeated number of intakes in compulsory care and number of dropouts were lower among UAMs during this time period.


The finding of this national registry study revealed that restrictive actions by institutional staff within compulsory care were significantly less common for UAMs versus non-UAMs. This study roughly suggests that the Swedish policy makers overseeing NSBIC need to consider and evaluate other care alternatives for UAMs, in addition to youth compulsory institutional care.