This article discusses how important social markers surrounding the figure of the unaccompanied minor, such as ‘integration’ and ‘deservingness’ are negotiated and made sense of by unaccompanied refugee youth and their teachers in a Swiss integration class. Starting from the premise of the classroom as both, a project of future-making and control, I investigate the ambiguous potential of education in creating and obstructing refugee youth’s pathways into the larger society. By zooming in on the interactions between teachers and students in an educational project in Switzerland that was specifically designed to cater for the needs of unaccompanied refugee youth, I show how a project that is celebrated amongst practitioners as a best practice example for integration in fact creates an insurmountable number of new obstacles for the young people. I suggest that the ambiguous treatment of unaccompanied refugee youth as vulnerable victims in need of protection and integration on the one hand and as threats to the economic and cultural integrity of the Swiss ‘national order of things’ (Malkki, Liisa. 1995. “Refugees and Exile: From ‘Refugee Studies’ to the National Order of Things.” Annual Review in Anthropology 24: 494–523) on the other, produces paradoxical dynamics whereby young people find themselves left outside whilst seemingly being ‘in’.

DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2019.1584702
ISSN: 1369-183X