Norway is in violation of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) regarding equal daycare attendance rights for child asylum seekers and Norwegian ones, the Children’s Ombudsman says.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ombudsman emphasizes the importance of giving all children the right to attend kindergarten, regardless of their family backgrounds.
A change to legislation, which currently does not obligate municipalities to pay for places for asylum seeker minors, is suggested.
“In essence, this is required to prevent discrimination (CRC Article 2) and to ensure children's right to education (Article 28) and optimal development (Article 6),” writes Ombudsman Anne Lindboe.
“We wish to add that we have recently received even stronger arguments for the health and welfare importance of giving children living in asylum reception centers over time the right to daycare.”
“The Ombudsman is also concerned that regulation of the centers’ services for children who do not have daycare is extremely inadequate,” she states.
Services offered to child asylum seekers at these facilities differ greatly. In one example, three children in Møre og Romsdal County’s Ulsteinvik lost their places at daycares because the municipality could no longer afford to prioritize financing them, NRK reports.
“This [case] is an extremely good example for why we must now secure child asylum seekers and refugees the right to attend daycare,” Children’s Ombudsman Anne Lindboe told NRK.
According to the broadcaster, some 56 per cent of children that live in asylum reception centers are given right of abode in Norway. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) currently finances this group’s daycare places for 4 to 6-year-olds conditional upon the municipalities’ having available capacity.
It does not pay for the youngest, however, who are dependent upon local politicians’ kindness and goodwill.
“Child asylum seekers living in reception center not being secured a place in daycare is a violation of Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Children regarding discrimination,” stated Ms Lindboe, referring to not offering them the same possibilities as other Norwegian children.
The Ministry of Education and Research sent a bill for hearing in 2009 intended to address the issue of no guaranteed daycare places for asylum seeker minors.
Nevertheless, legislation has not been put in place some four years on. Deputy Minister Elisabet Dahle explained this is because of two factors, “getting financial coverage and municipalities having available capacity at the time wished.”
Around 700 child asylum seekers residing in Norway were of pre-school age in 2009, Vårt Land reports. Norway Save the Children’s Marianne Borgen highlighted the discrimination issue and the UN Convention at that time.
Ms Borgen also welcomed the Ministry’s move.
“Children of asylum seekers are in a vulnerable and stressful life situation. It’s important these children are looked after during the day, both regarding daycares and schools,” she declared.
“Going to daycare means a safe and stable everyday environment, a normal daily rhythm. It means that you are surrounded by adults you can trust and who care about you,” Ann Ingvild Tødenes, leader of the Ulsteinvik asylum seeker reception featured in NRK’s report.
“It means playing and interacting with other children, and not least it allows for the learning and development of language skills. All of this is very important for a child, no matter if they are staying in Norway or not. It’s an important part of integration to Norwegian society,” she concluded.