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King speaks out for apathetic children

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17:10 CEST+02:00
The fight to grant permanent residency to asylum-seeking children suffering from apathy has stepped up a gear thanks to King Carl Gustaf. A weighty blow to the government says the press while campaigners in the children's corner cheer on.

King Carl Gustav took up the plight of Sweden's apathetic refugee kids on Tuesday saying: “It's is terrible what is happening with these poor children.”

The king was in Haparanda in the far north of Sweden to inaugurate a memorial for the 70,000 Finnish children who crossed the border into Sweden during World War II.

Speaking afterwards, the press took an opportune moment to catch a comment from His Majesty.

“It's good that the press take up the issue so that we can have an orderly discussion about the situation,” said King Carl Gustav.

Earlier this month, the Swedish Parliament voted against granting permanent residency to a number of apathetic asylum-seeking children, which caused an outcry in the ongoing debate.

According to Wednesday's Aftonbladet the royal words have given comfort and hope to families of the children in question.

“It's feels like magic that the king cares about us,” said the brother of an apathetic 13 year old. His family are facing a looming threat of deportation back to Kazakhstan.

“Suddenly we have a little glimmer of hope. I think that ordinary people listen to what the king says and perhaps the government should do the same.”

Priest Michael Williams, chairman of the Swedish Network of Asylum and Refugee Support Groups echoed the view that the king's statement was of great significance.

“He was diplomatic but very clear. It is great to experience a wave of empathy and compassion. I hope it leads to a public sense of feeling that we are not wrong.”

Whilst Aftonbladet portrayed the royal remarks as an attack on the government Dagens Nyheter pointed out that the king refused to comment on the state's handling of the apathetic children affair.

Meanwhile Wednesday's Svenska Dagbladet reports that the number of cases of apathetic refugee children has risen dramatically.

In the first investigation of its kind, the number of children known to be affected has risen from 55 cases in 2002 to 155 cases in 2004.

The majority of children come from the former Soviet Union (61.5 per cent) and the former Yugoslavia (26 per cent).

According to the survey presented in DN, 410 children in total have been treated for varying degrees of apathy syndrome, around a third of which are residing in Stockholm.

Of those, around 30 per cent have been granted permanent residency while 15 per cent have had their applications turned down.

The symptoms associated with the apathetic state have varied from refusing to go to school and becoming withdrawn and uncommunicative to the dramatic step of being tube fed.

Following contact with European counterparts, authorities here believe this is somewhat of a Swedish phenomenon. Germany and Holland have no knowledge of apathetic children whilst in Norway and Finland there has been seven and four cases respectively. Nine of those children had moved from Sweden.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet

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