In the aftermath of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015, unaccompanied minors have been depicted as potential threats and challenges to receiving countries in the Swedish public debate. Through narratives of unaccompanied youngsters from 2011 to 2012, this article will illustrate that these youngsters were already struggling with the ambiguous refugee figures of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ prior to the events of 2015. By studying their narratives, I analyse how deservingness comes into play in how they constitute themselves as subjects. In their narratives, they describe themselves as responsible, hard-working youngsters in relation to education and future working life. Moreover, their narratives also illustrate how descriptions of diligence and agency are used in order to oppose the discourse figures of unaccompanied minors as threats or victims. I conclude by suggesting that these narratives can be seen as manifestations of conditional belonging centred on deservingness, which the youngsters negotiate also after they have been granted protection.

DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2019.1584701
ISSN: 1369-183X