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Children sold for sex and crime in Sweden: report

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08:26 CET+01:00
More than 150 children, most of them foreign-born and some as young as three years old, have been victims of human trafficking in Sweden, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The report, presented by the Stockholm County Administrative Board (Stockholms länsstyrelsen), found a total of 166 children had been stuck in life of sexual exploitation, begging, and criminality due to human trafficking between 2009 and 2011.

"The situation is much more dire than previously believed," County Administrative Board investigator Ingrid Åkerman said in a statement.

The survey, based on responses from the country's 290 municipalities, found a roughly equal number of boys and girls were trafficking victims who ranged in age from three to 17.

While girls were most often sexually exploited, boys were used primarily to carry out thefts, although some boys were also sexually exploited.

Two thirds of the children had foreign nationalities, according to the report, while half were only in Sweden on a temporary basis and one third were children of asylum seekers.

However, there are thought to be a large number of unreported cases.

"In 2011 alone, 438 asylum-seeking children disappeared and we don't know where they are. It may be that they know they weren't granted residence permits, but it could also be due to human trafficking," Åkerman told the TT news agency.

According to Åkerman, Sweden must be "much, much better" at training social service employees to identify at-risk children, something she argues requires spending more money at the local level.

She also believes that children's rights in the Swedish legal system must be strengthened.

The report found that only 68 cases of child trafficking had been reported to police, with charges being filed in only a handful of cases.

Only six cases of human trafficking came to trial between 2009 and 2011, resulting in two convictions.

"Children have a hard time making their claims in the legal process. A review of legislation is needed and it must be made clear why so few children have their cases given a legal hearing," said Åkerman, who argued that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ought to be incorporated into Swedish law.

TT/The Local/dl

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