Housing still scarce for refugee children

Housing still scarce for refugee children
The Migration Board (Migrationsverket) is putting more pressure on Sweden's municipalities to help it cope with a major shortage of places to house refugee children.

The agency has enlisted the help of Save the Children (Rädda barnen) and Ombudsman for Children (Barnombudsmannen) in sending letters to the country’s county governors asking them to urge municipalities to take on more of the burden.

“We have more than 500 children sitting in reception centres waiting for places elsewhere in Sweden,” Migration Board head Dan Eliasson told Sveriges Radio (SR).

“So it’s a tough situation and there is a huge need for more municipalities to take in more children.”

Currently 170 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities have signed agreements with the Migration Board to accept unaccompanied refugee children, most of whom are boys from Afghanistan and Somalia.

Roughly half of the children are between 16- and 17-years-old, while 35 percent are between 12- and 15-years-old, SR reports.

The agency estimates that a total of 2,400 unaccompanied asylum seeking children will come to Sweden this year.

The Migration Board has turned to municipalities for help in the past, but the situation hasn’t improved much.

Eliasson explained that the shortage of available spaces means many children are forced to spend up to five months living in transitional facilities.

The delay also slows down the children’s applications for refugee status, as rules stipulate that asylum applications are only reviewed once a child has received permanent placement in a municipality.

“For a young person who is naturally anxious for a decision so they can sort out their life, months seems like an eternity,” Olof Risberg, a psychologist with Save the Children, told SR.

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