The fate of around 150 asylum-seeking children hung in the balance on Wednesday morning. Outside Swedish Parliament, representatives from Save the Children were handing out leaflets pleading with politicians to give them a second chance in life.
Later in the day Parliament rejected a proposal to grant permanent residency to children labelled in the day’s press as suffering from ‘apathy’.
As reported in Wednesday’s Svenska Dagbladet, some of the children are affected by symptoms of depression and the proposal recommended they should be assessed by a special expert group of child doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists.
Save the Children’s general secretary Charlotte Petri Gornitzka co-authored Aftonbladet’s daily debate column and penned:
“These children have been put in a vacuum by Swedish authorities. They are considered too sick to be turned away but they can’t stay in Sweden either.”
“It is because of the government’s asylum policies that children find themselves in this ‘no man’s land’. It is time the government started to take responsibility for their asylum policies. Where in all of this is the consideration of what is best for the child?”
According to Petri Gornitzka, the threat of being turfed out of the country is currently looming for at least 20 children and their families.
MP’s voted 124 to 171 against the proposal which all parties apart from the Social Democrats and the Moderates backed.
“It is tremendously shocking” said Petri Gornitzka after the votes were counted. “Politicians take on a big responsibility. The situation for some of these children is clearly life-threatening.”
Ahead of the vote, politicians were asked to vote with their conscience and not along party lines.
“The children are suffering and their lives are potentially in danger,” said the Moderates Ulf Sjösten.
“I want a Sweden which doesn’t throw out sick children,” said Folkpartiet’s Mauricio Rojas.
Standing at the helm of the debate, Migration minister Barbro Holmberg said giving special treatment could increase the risk for even more asylum children to become apathetic.
“That risk I am not prepared to take,” she told Aftonbladet.
Enraged by Holmberg’s comments, Green Party MP Gustav Fridolin said he considered it almost racist to suggest that asylum families would manipulate their children in order to obtain permanent residency in Sweden.
“Children cannot feign an illness where they don’t eat, drink, go to the toilet or communicate,” he said.
Fridolin told Aftonbladet that he will ensure all politicians who voted against the proposal receive future reports on what has happened to the children they turned away.
“Then I hope they will be ashamed,” he said.