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Chinese children missing in Sweden

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10:18 CEST+02:00
At least 23 Chinese children seeking asylum in Sweden have gone missing from temporary accommodation in Sigtuna in the last three weeks.

It has been a year since a wave of similar disappearances baffled the Swedish authorities. In the last week, six young people who arrived at Arlanda airport on flights from China have vanished without trace.

"Eight youngsters presented themselves to border police and were seeking asylum as children," said Björn Eklund, chief executive of Sigtuna council.

"Only three of them are still with us and the Board of Migration [Migrationsverket]. This is dreadful. I believe we're dealing with human trafficking. A year and a half ago we had the same problem. This has to stop - you have to assume that something horrible has happened to them."

When the individual young people arrived at the airport they had no identity papers but claimed that they were under the age of 18. They were taken into the custody of the border police and sent to the 'reception councils' which have an agreement with the migration board.

The majority of those who have disappeared from the refugee residences were gone within a few days, according to Eklund. The Social Services have no remit to supervise the children or to prevent them from leaving the residence.

When they arrive in Sweden, the young people often have mobile phones which immigration officers try to confiscate.

"Clearly they have contact with others or have been given instructions about what they should do," said Eklund.

At least 96 Chinese youngsters, thought to be between 12 and 18 years of age, have come to Sweden in the last year. 90 have gone missing and of those at least 30 have been picked up by authorities elsewhere in Europe.

Last June, a Chinese couple were found guilty of human trafficking after transporting 40 young people through Sweden. It was feared that the children were forced into slavery, the sex trade or organ supplies.

Since the pair were sentenced only a few children have gone missing, but the problem appears to have resurfaced.

A number of countries in Europe send Chinese children back home if they do not have the appropriate papers.

Border police at Arlanda have highlighted a wave of Chinese children in the last month and police are investigating the matter.

"We confiscate their mobile phones but they have SIM-cards hidden in their clothes," said Barry Gunnarsson at Arlanda police.

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