The focus of this thesis is how unaccompanied refugee minors in a Norwegian reception centre deal with their emotions while waiting for their application to be processed, in relation to those that they have to relate to in their everyday life there; the other minors and residents, the reception centre staff, their teachers and their guardians.
The unaccompanied refugee minors are children and adolescents under 18 seeking refuge in Norway, without the company of their parents. The research have been conducted at a Norwegian reception centre housing unaccompanied refugee minors between 15 and 18 years old, as well as other adult refugees, waiting for a decision on their asylum application.
Away from their parents, in a foreign country, many with traumatic experiences from conflict and flight, unaccompanied refugee minors in Norwegian reception centres are facing an emotionally challenging situation.
The findings of this thesis suggests that the unaccompanied refugee minors at the reception centre put considerable effort in managing their emotions by trying to avoid and distract themselves from distressing thoughts and emotions, through seeking other activities such as talking, joking and generally keeping up a positive attitude. At the same time the minors avoid expressing personal thoughts and emotions in interaction with others. My findings indicate that they do this to protect their emotions, their future and others respect for them. By expressing personal thoughts and emotions the minors risk reminding themselves of distressing emotions, or reveal information they believe may cause their asylum application to be declined, or that may cause them to lose others respect for them. Thus they avoid these private thoughts and emotions in interaction with the other minors.
The minors’ official caretakers while staying at the reception centre; the reception centre staff, the teachers, and the legal guardians seem to offer support to varying degrees. The staff is regarded with a general distrust because of their relation to UDI and lack of resources. The teachers provide support and are positively regarded by the minors, but the support they are able to offer is generally restricted to the school. The minors’ guardians are formally restricted by a narrow definition of responsibility pertaining to the legal matters of the minors. However, dedicated guardians that go beyond the formal definition and offer wider support are trusted and greatly appreciated by the minors.In summary, the minors seem to live under conditions that can be said to foster a “don’t worry, be happy” attitude, where they avoid negative and personal thoughts and emotions in interaction with others. The minors have very few to relate to in terms of people they can get help and support in dealing with their emotions.