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Afghan teens left in the cold by train operator

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08:47 CET+01:00
The five Afghan teens found wandering in the cold near Sävsjö in southern Sweden on Christmas Eve had not been left in the forest by smugglers, it emerged on Monday, but had instead been kicked off a Swedish passenger train because they lacked proper tickets.

The five youths, aged 14- to 18-years-old, told authorities in Sweden they had been smuggled through Europe in a container and thrown out in a wooded area near Sävsjö.

But upon arriving in Malmö in southern Sweden, the boys had actually boarded an SJ train destined for Stockholm.

“They were discovered near Alvesta by SJ personnel. Because they lacked tickets they were forced off in Sävsjö,” Jönköping police spokesperson Nils-Erik Eriksson told the TT news agency.

“The information we have is that the boys were smuggled to Malmö in a truck before they then continued on their own by train.”

Social services in Sävsjö now plan to place four of the boys in a youth home near Gothenburg.

The oldest boy, who is 18-years-old, will be placed in a refugee arrival facility operated by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket).

According to the police, the boys plan to seek asylum in Sweden.

Swedish national rail carrier SJ notified police that the boys had been forced from the train, but when police arrived at the Sävsjö train station, the boys had already been taken in by members of the local Högland church.

Even though the boys were lightly clothed and had no money, SJ still kicked them off the train. According to SJ regulations, passengers found to have boarded a train without paying for a proper ticket must get off the train at the next station.

Normally the Malmö-Stockholm train doesn't stop in Sävsjö, but an exception was made in the case of the ticketless Afghan teens.

According to SJ, their decision to force the youths from the train wasn't insensitive.

“Saying they were thrown off the train is a faulty description. Staff handled the matter totally by the book. They were asked to leave the train, and they left calmly and quietly,” SJ spokesperson Dag Rosander told TT.

Around 2,100 unaccompanied refugee children have come to Sweden so far this year, with 745 children from Afghanistan making up the largest portion.

According to the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), most belong to vulnerable minority groups who have been on the run for some time.

“The government in Kabul can't guarantee any group's safety these days. The stream of refugees from Afghanistan is only going to increase,” committee secretary general Torbjörn Pettersson told TT.

The teens' plight has brought the residents of Sävsjö together. All the boys have been outfitted with several sets of clothes and shoes to withstand the chilly winter weather.

Social services wasn't ready to assist them immediately, instead allowing members of the Högland church parish to care for the boys over Christmas holiday weekend.

“It has been important for us to show friendly human compassion. They were, despite everything, extremely vulnerable when they came here,” said Högland church pastor Jonas Nyström.

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