Legal Basics – What happens when a UMA arrives in Switzerland?

As we are now back in Switzerland we have to focus on the current situation here. For our further approach it is quite important to have some basic knowledge about legal basics. We informed ourselves in depth about the legal basics about the rights of the children, about special measures in the asylum proceedings for children, especially UMA, and about the protection being entitled to children. The following is an attempt to summarize the most important information on the UMA’s rights and their support during the asylum proceedings and their stay in Switzerland.

The rights of an Unaccompanied Minor

In principle the UMA have the same rights as every child. These rights are recorded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The agreement on the rights of the child is part of the human rights treaty and deal with the special needs of children. It is recorded that children are especially vulnerable and in need of protection. Protection and support have to be guaranteed to the child so that it can develop its personality without hindrance.

In addition, special protection and accommodation have to be guaranteed to children outside their family. Those asylum proceedings have priority.

In Switzerland there still are three reservations despite the CRC. They mostly have consequences in the laws concerning aliens and the asylum proceedings. The UN-CRC does criticise those three reservations and recommends a simplified and an accelerated asylum proceeding with particular attention on the children’s needs.

Further importance lies on refugee children or children claiming the legal status as refugee. They are entitled to special protection. The state is obliged to collaborate with responsible organizations to search for the child’s family members so they can be reunited.

Protection Measures for the UMA

As soon as a UMA is registered in Switzerland the competent authorities have to be contacted (Swiss Secretary of Migration (EMS)). The local authorities then allocate a legal representative for the child immediately. This representative comprises of either a guardian, a legal adviser or a person of confidence.

The tutelage (guardianship) is the most extensive form of protection and assistance of the civil law. The guardian is obliged to look after the child, to administer its well-being and to represent it in affairs concerning the civil law.

In an assistance (also guardianship) the legal adviser (or guardian) does not have any civil capacities, meaning it cannot influence the legal decisions of the child. The legal adviser’s task therefore is the representation of the child’s interests. The aim of an assistance is, mostly, a temporary aid in a specific case for the child. The legal adviser can also be consulted by a guardian to assist him in particular matters or in case of his absence.

The person of confidence reconciles situations where the authorities are unable to appoint a guardian or legal adviser immediately. The person of confidence acts as representative of the child’s interest and as representative of the child during the proceedings. He or she also supports the child when naming and procuring evidence, gives advice and stands by the child during contacts with the authorities and institutions of the health care system. In addition he or she can take care of administrative or organisational tasks (care, if necessary medical treatments, support in the proceedings). The person of confidence has to have sufficient knowledge on the asylum law and the course of the legal proceedings so that he or she can best support the child. From further importance is also that the UMA and its person of confidence have to immediately be informed about any measure or decision made.

The comprehension of these legal basics is important to understand the difficulty of that procedure and how we can help the UMA best. We are curious to meet a few UMA next week and to see into their “world”.

Much love,



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