The migration of unaccompanied minors is a global issue, present in many regions worldwide, where unaccompanied minors do not enjoy full protection of their rights. Among existing procedural safeguards, the right to legal representation is a fundamental right strictly related with the realisation of other rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Without proper legal representation in asylum procedures, it is highly unlikely that children will be able to defend themselves adequately, substantiate their asylum claims and avoid unjustified removals.
However, even among EU Member States where this right is formally recognised, several challenges affect its exercise and implementation, including delays in the appointment of guardians, lack of legal advisors qualified on child issues and scarce contact between children and their legal representatives. Additionally, while there is a significant body of literature addressing the rights of refugee children, a comprehensive and comparative study regarding the right to legal assistance and the analysis of the multilevel systemic protection of unaccompanied children in Europe is still missing.
The purpose of this research is to critically examine the content and scope of protection of the right to legal assistance for unaccompanied minors under EU law and its implementation in Italy and Sweden. These member states both face large numbers of asylum applications from unaccompanied children, but are different in terms of migration routes, immigration policy traditions and welfare systems. The comparison between the policies in these two Member States will contribute to a better understanding of the difficulties concerning the implementation of the right to legal representation under EU law at the national level. The research aims to identify best practices regarding the legal representation of unaccompanied minors and to propose innovative solutions that could eventually enhance the effective protection afforded to them within asylum procedures.