“It’s a paradox,” said Hans Rosenqvist, a principal officer at the NPB dealing with asylum issues.
He told The Local that some 10,000 cases are handed over to the police each year by the Board of Migration, and the police’s job was to find them.
“The police are looking for these people and then they’ll know they are in school – so what do they do then? Nothing?”
But the government has the support of its coalition partners, the Greens and the Left Party and will launch an inquiry with the clear objective of pushing through a law to force district councils to make the schooling available to the children.
“Children should go to school right up until the day their deportation order is put into effect,” said Migration Minister Barbro Holmberg to Swedish Radio’s Ekot programme.
Holmberg said that the three political parties were agreed that all such children should be allowed to attend school without risking being picked up by the police.
In expectation of the law’s coming into effect, councils which comply immediately will be compensated by the national government.
The agreement means that the government’s contribution to the district and city councils will increase by 50 million kronor next year. In the past the government has expressed reservations about introducing a law guaranteeing the refugee children the right to schooling.
Lott Jansson, political advisor in Barbro Holmberg’s office, explained that the policy was designed to put the needs of the children first.
“If the child misses three years of school because the parents go into hiding then that’s a very high price,” she told The Local.
While other countries in Europe already provide schooling for children in the same position – as do some Swedish councils already – Jansson acknowledged that there will always be a group of children who will not go to school.
“Of course, being hidden and going to school is a contradiction. It’s a very difficult problem. We need to find a balance – we don’t want a situation where the children get caught between different authorities,” she said.
But according to the police’s Hans Rosenqvist, the proposal would lead to more fundamental, even personal, contradictions:
“What does the policeman do if his son or daughter becomes a friend of the ‘hidden’ child?”
Rosenqvist pointed out that even today, police do not go into schools if they suspect there are children of refugees on the run there.
“But you could of course follow the child home, see the street, see where the mother or father is living. As a police officer you have to be able to do your work.”