The children are all believed to be siblings, the oldest aged 14 and the youngest just seven.
Two had applied for asylum in Sweden in November 2018, and initially lived with relatives, since their mother was reportedly dead and their father not available. Their two siblings joined them there in February this year.
But earlier this year, the municipality rejected the relatives' application to house them, and took a decision to move the four children to another home.
On July 10th this year, the children went missing before they could be taken to their new home, a municipal official confirmed to The Local on Thursday.
The Skåne region's own protocols relating to unaccompanied minors who go missing state: “Every child has the right to have someone look for them if they disappear. An unaccompanied minor who disappears should not be treated any differently in this respect than any other child who disappears.”
And yet it appears that is exactly what has happened, not only to the siblings in Perstorp but to hundreds of others like them. The protocol states that police and the Migration Agency should be informed of any missing children, and that the municipality should contact the children's friends and family and make “an individual assessment” on how long social services should wait before closing the case, although it recommends that this is delayed as long as possible.
When The Local spoke to Perstorp's Head of Social Administration Annelie Börjesdotter, she said she was not willing to speak about the matter and referred The Local to a coming press release from the municipality.
Municipal officials have said that they believe the children left “of their own free will” in order to be with their relatives. Initial reports suggested that police had been informed of the missing children and begun search efforts, but regional police have denied that there is any open case relating to four missing children.
Börjesdotter has told other media that the children were no longer the responsibility of the municipality and that the Swedish Migration Agency were now responsible. But a press spokesperson for the Migration Agency told The Local that this was not the case and that the municipality had full responsibility for the children.
“We have closed the case, because there is nothing we can do in cases where the person has disappeared,” he said.
With the school holidays nearly over, the children should be returning to school, where a teacher described the oldest sister as “shy” but “happy and cheerful”, and said she had recently begun learning Swedish.
According to Migration Agency figures, a total of 705 children were reported to have gone missing between 2017 to July 31st 2019, of which 536 were still considered missing.
Press secretary for Skåne Stadsmissionen Eva Emmelin told The Local that the charity, which works with homeless and missing people as well as those living in poverty and vulnerable situations, had been following the news.
“As one of our lawyers has said, it seems that refugee kids are not treated in the same way as kids that are born in Sweden,” she said.