In a recently released report, Human Rights Watch highlighted the many shortcomings and delays faced by unaccompanied minors in Sweden. The report, entitled Seeking Refuge, documented the long waits faced by children until a legal guardian is appointed, which is paramount to guaranteeing the child’s access to education, information and basic support services. Unaccompanied children also have to wait long periods of time before meeting with a social worker or healthcare provider.

Accommodation for unaccompanied children is in general not appropriate, with girls at times being placed in group housing with boys. Children often have to move multiple times to different housing, which takes a huge toll on their psychological well-being. Particularly worrying is the lack of specific treatment for girl asylum seekers, and especially for those who are victims of sexual violence.

While Swedish laws are generally in line with international human rights standards, the arrival of 35,000 unaccompanied children in the country in 2015 – compared to the 7,000 in 2014 – has put the system to the test. The huge backlog in asylum applications means that in some cases children have been in the country for 5 months or more without an asylum interview.

While the organisation recognises the steps taken by Sweden in dealing with an unprecedented number of children arriving, it also recommends that the authorities prioritise asylum claims of unaccompanied children and that guardians for unaccompanied children are promptly appointed and adequately trained.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 June 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.