The boy was taken into care by Swedish social services at just 11 days old, and has lived with the same foster family in Österlen, Skåne since the age of four months, as Dagens Nyheter was first to report. His mother has since been deported to her home country of Nigeria and the boy’s father is unknown.
According to Swedish courts, the boy’s biological mother is unable to take care of him, but they also believe that he has family in Nigeria who could look after him.
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His foster parents have questioned the decision to deport the toddler to a country he has never been to, when he has spent almost all his life as part of their family.
“If he is expelled, he risks ending up in an orphanage, in a country he has never been to, among people he does not know. How can this compare to [being part of] a family in Sweden? He is our family member,” the boy’s foster mother told Kvällsposten.
The Swedish Migration Agency and Migration Court have denied the three-year-old a Swedish residence permit, and the Migration Court of Appeal has denied an appeal.
“He is like any other three-year-old, he challenges us, likes to play with his siblings – a super lovely kid who learns very quickly,” the foster mother said.
Since receiving the decision, the family have been working with children’s rights organisations to raise awareness of the case, and more than 130,000 people have signed a petition calling for the deportation order to be overturned.
Sweden has previously overturned decisions to deport children, including in the case of a six-year-old legal orphan who lived with his grandparents in Sweden. In that instance, the agency admitted it had acted “too quickly” in its initial decision. And a two-year-old girl living in a foster home in Skåne received a deportation order in 2012, but three years later was granted permanent residence in Sweden and allowed to stay.