10,000 Swedes are demanding permanent residency permits for unaccompanied migrant children who have been in the country for more than a year.

– “It’s not about ‘us and them’; it’s about us”

“It’s not about ‘us and them’; it’s about us”, reads a petition to the Swedish parliament and government organised by the campaign Håll ihop Sverige-Flyktingamnesti för de ensamkommande (“Keep Sweden Together – Amnesty for the Unaccompanied”), which as of this Tuesday had seen 9,777 people sign in support.

The petition organisers denounce the Swedish authorities’ “inhumane” treatment of “vulnerable” young asylum seekers, which mistreatment they say includes a “lack of legal certainty in the asylum process” and legally dubious age evaluations.

The “Keep Sweden Together” campaign is also decrying that the young migrants’ “forced deportation to war-torn countries” is dividing families, school classes, sports associations and other social groups around the country, along with leaving “irreparable damage to Swedish society”.

– Up to 50 migrant children leaving Sweden daily to live among rubbish and rats in France

After a long time campaigning, the “Keep Sweden Together” petitioners have finally attracted the attention of the Swedish government, with staff of Justice Minister Morgan Johansson agreeing to a meeting with the campaigners on September 25, at which the activists will hand over their petition.

In an email exchange with Novena, “Keep Sweden Together” co-founder Joel Larsson said that the meeting with Johansson couldn’t come soon enough, at a time when up to 50 unaccompanied migrant children are leaving Sweden daily to seek asylum in other European countries, above all France.

“France has accepted their grounds for asylum to a much greater extent than Sweden has. This is in our opinion evidence that shows how wrongly these young people have been treated by Sweden”, Larsson said.

Just because France is more likely to accept the young people’s asylum applications doesn’t mean that their nightmare is over once they arrive in that country, however.

Larsson lamented that young migrants there are living “in tents under bridges and in terrible conditions, among rubbish, rats and at high risk of being robbed and exposed to drug abuse”.

“However, they chose to live in these conditions rather than risk deportation to countries in war, in most cases Afghanistan”, the migrant advocate said.

– Suicide rates nine times higher among migrant children

Larsson denounced the fact that young people seeking refuge in Sweden are subject to “arbitrary re-evaluations of their ages” and “unacceptable waiting times in the asylum process”.

But compounding that suffering, according to the migrant campaigner, is the fact that suicide rates among young asylum seekers in Sweden are nine times higher than amongst other young people of a similar age.

“All this is a consequence of political decisions and a great lack of legal certainty”, Larsson deplored.

One of the ambassadors of the “Keep Sweden Together” campaign is pediatrician Henry Ascher. As the professor at the University of Gothenburg explains on the petition website:

“What do people need to recover after being exposed to war, violence and life-threatening trauma? The collective research shows that stability, security and a predictable existence are an important prerequisite for healing and hope for the future.

“But constantly new laws and regulations have led to total uncertainty about what applies, both among professionals and young refugees, leading to an increased risk of continued and intensified trauma, poorer opportunities for integration and threats to children and young people’s health and development in the short and long term.

“Therefore, an amnesty is needed…”, Ascher stressed.

“Keep Sweden Together – Amnesty for the Unaccompanied” is a non-partisan and cross-religious campaign advocating for permanent residency and work permits for migrant children living in Sweden without parents or legal guardians, for an end to deportations to Afghanistan and for the reform of the asylum system and the implementation in the country of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ambassadors of the campaign include K. G. Hammar, the former Archbishop of Uppsala and head of the Church of Sweden, and Karin Nyman, the daughter of noted Swedish author of the “Pippi Longstocking” books, Astrid Lindgren.

More news on Novena from Sweden:

More news on the plight of migrants in Europe:

German abbess prosecuted for sheltering refugees says she would accept jail term with a “clear conscience”

Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Italy: migrants are “discarded” and “forgotten” because they are not consumers

Spanish-African archbishop issues powerful plea for migrants: “People have rights, borders do not; the poor have rights, money does not”

‘Seeking Sanctuary’ pays moving tribute to migrant life “full of hope and opportunity” lost in English Channel (photo)


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.