Refugee crisis

Sweden’s plan to stop migrant children disappearances

Sweden's plan to stop migrant children disappearances
The number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Sweden increased significantly last year. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT
The Swedish government is set to react to fears that unaccompanied migrant children who are disappearing during the asylum process may be suffering from sexual abuse and human trafficking.

As a result of the disappearances, the Swedish government agency tasked with representing the rights of minors could now be given a mandate to carry out in-depth interviews with children who return after going missing.

The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden ('Barnombudsmannen') is an agency charged with representing children regarding their rights and interests on the basis of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The goal of their proposed interviews is to analyze what children have experienced, and try to work out how their disappearances can be prevented in the future.

It is part of a 23-point program with which authorities and other bodies hope to protect children from crime and social deprivation in Sweden. The Swedish government will make a final decision on the mandate during a meeting on Wednesday.

On Monday, local radio station P4 Blekinge reported on the poor conditions that six unaccompanied refugee children in the southern Swedish province were living in. The children claimed that all six had shared the same basement at a foster home, that they were not given sufficient food and that their toilet usage was restricted.

In June, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized Sweden’s treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, highlighting the long waiting periods for asylum processing as well as a lack of adequate psychological care for those in need. 

According to Human Rights Watch figures, more than 35,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden in 2015, a significant increase from around 7000 in 2014.