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Fewer refugee children coming to Sweden

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Migrants at the Greek border station of Idomeni, Greece. Photo: Darko Vojinovic/Ap/TT
16:55 CEST+02:00
Fewer unaccompanied children and adolescents, particularly those from Afghanistan, are among refugees arriving in Sweden, according to the latest reports.

The decrease is believed to be due to stricter border control in places such as Macedonia as well as recently-introduced Swedish demands for ID papers, reports Ekot.

“This is mainly down to a sharp drop in numbers of Afghan asylum seekers between January and February,” Merjem Maslo, analyst with the Swedish Migration Agency, told Ekot.

In January 400 children and adolescents from Afghanistan claimed asylum in Sweden, compared to only 60 a month later. During the first half of March, only 12 have arrived in Sweden.

Sweden experienced a sharp initial drop in refugee numbers after introducing border controls in November 2015. Afghans often do not have valid identity documents, making them particularly vulnerable to the new Swedish controls.

“This does not mean that we are back at ‘normal levels' – they simply do not have the possibility of reaching Sweden anymore,” Anna-Karin Johansson, general secretary with the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (Svenska Afghanistankommittén) told TT.

Despite the reduced numbers coming to Sweden, there is nothing to indicate that fewer are fleeing – instead finding themselves stuck at the much-criticised closed borders in Greece, according to humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

“I do not have access to any statistics – I doubt they exist – but on the islands and mainland of Greece I see just as many as before. I see no reduction in the numbers of minors coming from Afghanistan,” MSF's Constance Theisen said.

Because of the closed borders in the country's north, refugees now remain in Idomeni and other camps on the Greek mainland. They are also not covered by the same rights as refugees from Syria.

“There are very many here, and they do not have sufficient protection and are stranded. There is no system to take care of them. The minors are stuck in camps or disappear from them,” said Theisen.

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During 2015 a total of 23,480 children and adolescent Afghans, mostly teenage boys, applied for asylum in Sweden. Nothing indicates that there are fewer leaving their country today, says Johansson, who was in Kabul last month, where she witnessed concerns that government forces are incapable of resisting the Taliban.

“These are young people who are very vulnerable and have no resources,” she said.


 

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