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Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Refugee Children's Forced Repatriation: Social Workers' and Police Officers' Health and Job Characteristics
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Global Health. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Police Education Unit at Umeå University.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Global Health. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Police Education Unit at Umeå University.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Police Education Unit at Umeå University. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
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2015 (English)In: Global Journal of Health Science, ISSN 1916-9736, E-ISSN 1916-9744, Vol. 7, no 6, 215-225 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During the past ten years the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children has dramatically increased in Sweden. Some of them are permitted to stay in the receiving country, but some are forced back to their country of origin. Social workers and police officers are involved in these forced repatriations, and such complex situations may cause stressful working conditions. This study aimed to bridge the gap in knowledge of the relationship between general mental health and working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children who are due for forced repatriation. In addition, the role of psychosocial job characteristics in such relationships was investigated. A questionnaire including sociodemographic characteristics, the Swedish Demand-Control-Support Questionnaire, and the 12-item General Mental Health Questionnaire were distributed nationally. Univariate and multivariable regression models were used. Poorer mental health was associated with working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children among social workers but not among police officers. Psychological job demand was a significant predictor for general mental health among social workers, while psychological job demand, decision latitude, and marital status were predictors among police officers. Findings are discussed with special regard to the context of social work and police professions in Sweden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 7, no 6, 215-225 p.
National Category
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-106870DOI: 10.5539/gjhs.v7n6p215PubMedID: 26153185Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84959071602OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-106870DiVA: diva2:845222
Available from: 2015-08-11 Created: 2015-08-11 Last updated: 2017-10-02Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Mind the blues: Swedish police officers' mental health and forced deportation of unaccompanied refugee children
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mind the blues: Swedish police officers' mental health and forced deportation of unaccompanied refugee children
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Introduction: Policing is a public health issue. The police often encounter vulnerable populations. Police officers have wide discretionary powers, which could impact on how they support vulnerable populations. In encountering vulnerable populations the police officers are required to be professional; maintaining mental health in the face of challenges is part of professionalism. Their encounters with vulnerable populations might influence their mental health which in turn might influence the way they use their discretion when making decisions.

Background/context: Sweden receives more unaccompanied, asylum-seeking refugee children than any other country in Europe. The number of asylum applications for such children increased from 400 in 2004 to 7000 in 2014 to over 35,000 in 2015. These children come to Sweden and apply for asylum without being under the care of their parents or other legal guardian. Some are denied asylum. If they do not return to their country of origin voluntarily the police are responsible for their deportation. The Swedish government wants an increasing number of deportations and wants them carried out with dignity. This thesis is about the police officers’ perceptions of how to interpret the seemingly contradictory demands for more deportations, that is, efficiency; and concerns for human rights during the deportation process, that is, dignity. This is conceptualized using three theoretical frameworks: a) street-level bureaucracy, b) job demand-control-social support model and c) coping. These theoretical frameworks indicate the complexity of the issue and function as constructions by means of which understanding can be brought to the police officers’ perceptions of deportation work involving unaccompanied, asylum-seeking refugee children and how such work is associated to their mental health.

Aim: The current research aims to investigate and analyse Swedish police officers’ mental health in the context of deportations of unaccompanied, asylum-seeking refugee children.

Methods: This thesis uses both qualitative and quantitative methodology. The qualitative approach comprised interviews conducted to achieve a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of police officers’ perceptions of deportations of unaccompanied, asylum-seeking refugee children. The quantitative method involved the use of validated questionnaires to investigate the association between police officers’ mental health and psychosocial job characteristics and coping. This approach made it possible to study a complex issue in a complex environment and to present relevant recommendations. A total of 14 border police officers were interviewed and 714 police officers responded to a survey.

Results: The police officers utilize their wide discretionary powers and perceive that they are doing what is best in the situation, trying to listen to the child and to be aware of the child’s needs. Police officers with experience of deportations of unaccompanied, asylum-seeking refugee children were not found to have poorer mental health than police officers with no such experience. Furthermore, high job demand, low decision latitude, low levels of work-related social support, shift work and being single are associated with poor mental health. Coping moderates the association between mental health and the experience of carrying out deportations of unaccompanied, asylum-seeking, refugee children, and the police officers seem to utilize both emotional and problem-solving coping during the same complex deportation process.

Implications / conclusions: The general conclusion reached in this thesis is that if police officers are subject to reasonable demands, have high decision latitude, access to work-related social support, and utilize adaptable coping, the deportation work does not seem to affect their mental health. When police officers meet vulnerable people, they utilize their discretionary powers to deal with seemingly contradictory demands, that is, efficiency and dignity. The executive role in the deportations of unaccompanied, asylum-seeking refugee children and the awareness of dealing with a child threatened with deportation might give rise to activation of a sense of protection, safety and security. Discretion might make it possible to act on this sense of protection, safety and security and to combine efficiency and dignity. Further studies, which integrate cognitive and emotional discretion with coping, need to be undertaken.

Abstract [sv]

Introduktion: Polisarbete är i mångt och mycket en folkhälsofråga, något som inte minst blir tydligt i polisers möte med utsatta människor. Poliser har ett stort handlingsutrymme, vilket kan påverka hur de bemöter utsatta människor. I mötet med dessa människor behöver poliserna vara professionella; att ta hand om sin psykiska hälsa när man möts av utmaningar är en del av professionalismen. Att möta utsatta människor kan påverka polisernas psykiska hälsa, som i sin tur kan påverka hur de använder sitt handlingsutrymme när de fattar beslut.

Bakgrund: Sverige tar emot fler ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn än något annat land i Europa. Antalet asylansökningar för sådana barn ökade från 400 år 2004 till 7000 år 2014 till över 35 000 år 2015. Dessa barn kommer till Sverige och ansöker om asyl utan sina föräldrar eller annan vårdnadshavare. Somliga av dem nekas asyl. Om de inte återvänder till sitt ursprungsland frivilligt är polisen ansvariga för utvisningen. Den svenska regeringen kräver ett ökande antal verkställigheter av av- och utvisningar samt fastlår att verkställigheterna ska genomföras med respekt för människors värdighet. Denna avhandling handlar om polisers uppfattningar och tolkningar av de till synes motsägelsefulla kraven på att verkställa fler av- och utvisningar, det vill säga effektivitet; och hur man hanterar de mänskliga rättigheterna under utvisningsprocessen, det vill säga värdighet. Detta beskrivs och analyseras med hjälp av tre teoretiska ramverk: a) gräsrotsbyråkrati, b) jobb-krav-kontroll-socialt stödmodellen och c) coping. Dessa teoretiska ramverk visar på arbetsuppgiftens komplexitet och fungerar som utgångspunkt för att skapa förståelse för polisernas uppfattningar av arbetet med att verkställa av- och utvisningar av ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn och hur sådant arbete är associerat med polisernas psykiska hälsa.

Syfte: Denna avhandling syftar till att undersöka och analysera svenska polisers psykiska hälsa i relation till av- och utvisningar av ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn.

Metod: Både kvalitativ och kvantitativ metod användes i denna avhandling. Det kvalitativa tillvägagångssättet innefattade intervjuer för att uppnå en djupare förståelse för hur poliser uppfattar av- och utvisningar av ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn. Den kvantitativa metoden innebar tillämpning av validerade frågeformulär för att undersöka sambandet mellan polisernas psykiska hälsa och psykosociala jobbkarakteristika samt coping. Detta tillvägagångssätt gjorde det möjligt att studera en komplex fråga i en komplex miljö och att presentera relevanta rekommendationer. Totalt intervjuades 14 gränspoliser och 714 poliser svarade på en enkätundersökning.

Resultat: Resultatet visar att poliserna utnyttjar sitt stora handlingsutrymme och uppfattar att de gör det som är bäst i situationen, att de försöker lyssna på barnet och vara medvetna om barnets behov. Poliser med erfarenhet av av- och utvisningar av ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn har inte visat sig ha en sämre psykisk hälsa än poliser utan sådan erfarenhet. Vidare är höga krav och lågt beslutsutrymme på arbetet, låga nivåer av arbetsrelaterat socialt stöd, skiftarbete och singelliv associerat med dålig psykisk hälsa. Coping mildrar effekten på den psykiska hälsan hos de som har erfarenhet av att utföra av- och utvisningar av ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn. Poliserna verkar utnyttja både emotionell och problemlösande coping under en och samma komplexa utvisningsprocess.

Slutsats: Den viktigaste slutsatsen i denna avhandling är att om poliser utsätts för rimliga krav, har stort beslutsutrymme, tillgång till arbetsrelaterat socialt stöd och använder sig av anpassningsbar coping, verkar det som att arbetet med av- och utvisningar inte påverkar deras psykiska hälsa. När poliser möter utsatta människor utnyttjar de sitt handlingsutrymme för att hantera de till synes motsägelsefulla kraven, det vill säga effektivitet och värdighet. Den verkställande rollen i av- och utvisningar av ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn och medvetenheten om att hantera ett barn som hotas av utvisning kan ge upphov till en aktivering av känslan att ge skydd, trygghet och säkerhet. Handlingsutrymmet kan göra det möjligt att agera på denna känsla av skydd, trygghet och säkerhet samt att kunna kombinera effektivitet och värdighet. Ytterligare studier, som integrerar kognitivt och känslomässigt handlingsutrymme med coping, behöver emellertid genomföras.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, 2017. 61 p.
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1909
Keyword
coping, decision latitude, discretion, job demand, mental health, police personnel, street-level bureaucracy, Sweden, unaccompanied, asylum-seeking refugee children, work-related social support
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Public health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-138923 (URN)978-91-7601-754-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-09-29, Sal 1031, Norra Beteendevetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Mediegränd 5, Umeå, 09:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-09-08 Created: 2017-09-04 Last updated: 2017-09-13Bibliographically approved
2. Forced repatriation of unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children: towards an interagency model
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Forced repatriation of unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children: towards an interagency model
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Påtvingade återvändanden av ensamkommande asylsökande flyktingbarn : mot en interorganisatorisk samverkansmodell
Abstract [en]

Introduction Not all children seeking asylum without parents or other relatives are entitled to residence permits. In the last few years, more than one in four unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children have been forced to repatriate, either to their home country or to a transit country. Mostly the children refuse to leave the country voluntarily, and it becomes a forced repatriation. Five actors collaborate in the Swedish child forced repatriation process: social workers, staff at care homes, police officers, Swedish Migration Board officers and legal guardians. When a child is forced to repatriate, the Swedish workers involved must consider two different demands. The first demand requires dignified repatriation, which is incorporated from the European Union’s (EU’s) Return Directive into Swedish Aliens Act. The second demand requires that the repatriation process be conducted efficiently, which means that a higher number of repatriation cases must be processed. The fact that the same professionals have different and seemingly contradictory requirements places high demands on the involved collaborators. Two professionals have a legal responsibility for the children until the last minute before they leave Sweden: social workers and police officers. That makes them key actors in forced repatriation, as they carry most of the responsibility in the process. Further, they often work with children who are afraid what will happen when they return to their home country and often express their fear through powerful emotions. Being responsible and obliged to carry out the government’s decision, despite forcing children to leave a safe country, may evoke negative emotional and mental stress for the professionals involved in forced repatriation.

Aim The overall aim of this study is to explore and analyse forced repatriation workers’ collaboration and perceived mental health, with special focus on social workers and police officers in the Swedish context.

Materials and methods The study combines a qualitative and quantitative research design in order to shed light at both a deep and general level on forced repatriation. In qualitative substudy I, a qualitative case study methodology was used in one municipality in a middle-sized city in Sweden. The municipality had a contract regarding the reception of unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children iv with the Swedish Migration Board. The municipality in focus has a population of more than 100,000 inhabitants. The city in which the data were collected has developed a refugee reception system where unaccompanied asylumseeking refugee children are resettled and await a final decision regarding their permit applications. This situation made it possible to recruit participants who had worked with unaccompanied refugee children without a permit. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a total of 20 social workers, staff at care homes, police officers, Swedish Migration Board officers and legal guardians. A thematic approach was used to analyse the data. In quantitative substudies II, III and IV, a national survey of social workers (n = 380) and police officers (n = 714), with and without experience of forced repatriation, was conducted. The questionnaires included sociodemographic characteristics, the Swedish Demand-Control Questionnaire, Interview Schedule for Social Interaction, Ways of Coping Questionnaire and the 12- item General Mental Health Questionnaire. Factor analysis, correlational analysis, and univariate and multivariable regression models were used to analyse the data.

Results The qualitative results in substudy I showed low levels of collaboration among the actors (social workers, staff at care homes, police officers, Swedish Migration Board officers and legal guardians) and the use of different strategies to manage their work tasks. Some of them used a teamwork pattern, showing an understanding of the different roles in forced repatriation, and were willing to compromise for the sake of collaboration. Others tended to isolate themselves from interaction and acted on the basis of personal preference, and some tended to behave sensitively, withdraw and become passive observers rather than active partners in the forced repatriation. The quantitative results in substudy II showed that poorer mental health was associated with working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children among social workers but not among police officers. Psychological job demand was a significant predictor for mental health among social workers, while psychological job demand, decision latitude and marital status were predictors among police officers. Substudy III showed that both social workers and police officers reported relatively high access to social support. Furthermore, police officers working in forced repatriation with low levels of satisfaction with social interaction and close emotional support increased the odds of psychological disturbances. In substudy IV, social workers used more escape avoidance, distancing and positive-reappraisal coping, whereas police officers used more planful problem solving and self-controlling coping. Additionally, social workers with experience in forced repatriation used more planful problem solving than those without experience.

Conclusions In order to create the most dignified forced repatriation, based on human dignity, for unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children and with healthy actors, a forced repatriation system needs: overall statutory national guidance, interagency collaboration, actors working within a teamworking pattern, forced repatriation workers with reasonable job demands and decision latitude, with a high level of social support and adaptive coping strategies. The point of departure for an interagency model is that it is impossible to change the circumstances of the asylum process, but it is possible to make the system more functional and better adapted to both the children’s needs and those of the professionals who are set to handle the children. A centre for unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children, consisting of all actors involved in the children’s asylum process sitting under the same roof, at the governmental level (Swedish Migration Board, the police authority) and municipality level (social services, board of legal guardians), can meet all requirements.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2017. 87 p.
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1920
Keyword
collaboration, coping, forced repatriation, interagency collaboration, mental health, social support, social workers, Sweden, police officers, psychosocial job characteristics, unaccompanied asylum-seeking refugee children
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-140166 (URN)978-91-7601-772-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-10-27, Aulan, Vårdvetarhuset, Umeå, 09:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-10-06 Created: 2017-10-02 Last updated: 2017-10-06Bibliographically approved

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Sundqvist, JohannaHansson, JonasGhazinour, MehdiÖgren, KennethPadyab, Mojgan

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