The need to house refugee children is approaching crisis levels, prompting the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) to expand from four to ten the number of municipalities designated to take in young asylum seekers when they first arrive in Sweden.
At the same time, the government plans to form a commission to review Sweden’s entire system for dealing with refugee children who arrive in the country unaccompanied by adults.
Among other things, the commission will consider enacting laws that force municipalities to accept the children.
“The way things have developed since 2005 has been crazy,” said Migration Board head Dan Eliasson at a press conference on Monday.
In 2005, 389 refugee children came to Sweden without their parents or other guardians. For 2009, an estimated 2,400 children are expected to arrive, with 92 percent between the ages of 13 and 17.
There is an urgent need for municipalities to house 500 children. If every one of Sweden’s 290 municipalities took in two children, the problem would be solved.
But such is not the case, as only 100 municipalities currently have agreements with the Migration Board to take in refugee children.
“The legislative process takes time and will not resolve the situation currently faced by 500 children. But new legislation must be prepared if we are to avoid standing here in three years’ time and still not have space for children who are seeking asylum to escape oppression and persecution,” said Migration Minister Tobias Billström in a statement.
Four municipalities currently serve as points of entry for refugee children. While the Migration Board receives the children’s asylum applications when they are in one of these ‘arrival municipalities’, a final assessment isn’t carried out until the children arrive in the municipalities where they are assigned to live.
But now the agency wants to alter the process and increase the number of arrival municipalities from four to ten and is currently in discussions with Norrköping and Örebro in central Sweden, Umeå in northern Sweden, and Gävle in eastern Sweden.