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Swedish forced marriage laws 'not strong enough'

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Swedish forced marriage laws 'not strong enough'
17:40 CET+01:00
Swedish laws against forced marriages and child marriages are not effective, the country's migration board stated in a report to the government on Wednesday.

Sweden's Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni agrees with Sweden's National Migration Board's (Migrationsverket) assessment, saying that new laws are needed.

The board's director general Dan Eliasson compiled data on forced and child marriages for the first time at the request of the government.

After examining the number of forced, child and proxy marriages that occurred from September to December last year, the agency has observed a number of shortcomings.

For example, it is evident that current legislation does not specify that a person who wants to come to Sweden to marry or cohabitate with a partner must be at least 18.

"The results of the report very much confirms what I have feared," Sabuni told news agency TT on Thursday.

She pointed out that this is the first time that the Migration Board has undertaken this kind of survey.

"I think that it is important to continue to work in this area to get more and better knowledge about how honour culture-based relationships affect individuals," said Sabuni.

For example, the board sees a risk that under current practices, underage girls who are pregnant can obtain residence permits through a loophole in the law, creating a situation "where young girls are forced to become pregnant."

In the last four months of 2010, the board handled two applications for permanent residency from individuals who were involved in forced marriages with Swedish residents, five cases concerning child marriage, two of which were forced, and 29 so-called proxy marriages.

In total, the board dealt with 53 cases of cases concerning marriages with minors, forced marriages and proxy marriages. There were 19 arranged marriages, of which five were also proxies and two involved minors.

"One cannot say whether they have increased in recent years, but the statistics confirm the picture we have had that there is a problem there," Johan Rahm, the board's press director, told the Siren News Agency on Wednesday.

The applications also involved both overseas men seeking residency with women or girls resident in Sweden. In addition to Swedes, the citizenships of those highlighted in the report included countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe as well as stateless and unknown individuals.

The Migration Board is also calling for new rules on forced marriages. Under current rules, it can be difficult for the board to reject an application for a residence permit even though the sponsor does not want the spouse to come to Sweden.

"We cannot reject an application and not tell the applicant why. It has become such a catch-22 situation, we wonder how the government wants to handle it," said Rahm.

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