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Refugee kids faking mental ills: agency staff

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12:30 CET+01:00
The head of Migration Board (Migrationsverket) operations in southern Sweden has slammed case workers for routinely hinting that refugee children are making false claims about their mental health in order to avoid deportation.

A review of 62 deportation orders processed by migration authorities in Malmö in southern Sweden revealed that case workers from the agency often used rather flippant phrasing when describing the status of unaccompanied refugee minors from Afghanistan, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported.

Several of the children's files read "have checked themselves into BUP" to avoid deportation, using the Swedish acronym for the country's child and youth psychiatric services (Barn- och ungdomspsykiatri), phrasing which a Migration Board boss admitted could be interpreted to mean that case workers don't believe the children are really in need of psychiatric care.

"I don't think this formulation is okay. I can't defend them," Anna Wessel, division head for the Migration Board in Malmö, told the newspaper.

"I've worked at the Migration Board for a long time and have heard unfortunate phrasing on a number of occasions."

Wessel blamed the situation on a lack of training and a "leadership problem" at the office which she has attempted to address since assuming her role in May of this year.

She claimed that, despite phrasing by caseworkers indicating that the refugee children are manipulating the system, the Migration Board employees' actions hadn't negatively affected any of the children in question.

The agency often justifies allowing border police to take coercive measures to carry out deportations by citing that young people are in psychiatric care.

While Wessel admitted that deporting unaccompanied refugee minors is "tough", she emphasized that her agency is simply carrying out its responsibility to see to it that people who are in Sweden illegally leave the country.

She added, however, that Migration Board staff shouldn't write about refugee children in a way that could give police the impression that they are simply trying to cheat the system to avoid deportation.

Björn Axel Johansson, chief physician at the child psychiatric institution in Skåne, told DN that refugee children who come to the institution's facilities often display self-harming behaviour and are "extremely desperate".

He admitted that sometimes his institution and the border police "work at cross-purposes", which can complicate treatment.

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"It's hard to treat a patient when the police keep applying pressure," said Johansson.

TT/The Local/dl

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