200 Children Deported Already This Year

200 children have been deported from Sweden so far this year. Collage by Lisa Jansson

200 children have been deported from Sweden already this year, according to statistics from the Swedish Migration Agency. Many are born in Sweden and arrive in countries they have never been to. Some of the children have been deported with their families, others are forced to leave Sweden on their own.

200 children have already been deported in 2023, according to statistics from the Swedish Migration Agency. Some cases are known and have led to widespread protests. Other children just disappear into thin air without anyone really knowing what happens to them after they leave Sweden.

Duaa is 12 years old. She has lived with her mother Tahira in Sweden since she was born, but in the middle of February 2023 their lives changed dramatically when Duaa received a deportation decision to Pakistan, which meant splitting her from her mother.

Situations like Duaa’s is not uncommon. This year by far, 293 children have already received deportation decisions. Of these, 200 have already left the country while 93 remain because their decisions have been successfully defended. Many of the children have lived here for many years, some of them their entire lives. 

Aftonbladet has earlier reported about 15-year-old Nadine. She was also born and raised in Sweden but got a deportation order together with her family back to Algeria, a country she has never been to. Nadine tells Aftonbladet that there has been concern about this throughout her childhood. The Swedish Migration Agency would not comment on the reason for the decision due to confidentiality.

In December of 2022, Omni reported about 10-year-old Laura being deported to Nicaragua without her parents. 

11-year-old Saliha, born and raised in Uppsala, Sweden, is at risk of deportation to Uzbekistan, where she has never lived and has no network.

Lenard, aged 9, who lives with severe autism, is at risk of deportation to Kosovo. His family is worried that he will not receive the treatment and support his disability requires. 

The list goes on and on.

The Ombudsman for Children is Critical

It is becoming more and more alarming when children are deported without their parents. According to a report by the National Council of Refugee Groups (FARR), the law does not permit the deportation of a child without a parent or guardian without an organized receiving in the country to which the child is deported.

For many children who are deported from Sweden, this means an uncertain future. They are forced to leave a country to which they have formed a strong bond to. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), every child has the right to a safe environment, protection from physical or mental violence, abuse, support and services, but for many of those deported, these rights are under threat.

The Ombudsman for Children Elisabeth Dahlin explains that the reception system for asylum seekers should be reviewed from a child rights perspective and has called on the government to investigate the possibility of introducing child-specific reasons for asylum in the legislation.

– The best interests of the child must be the basis of all examinations and here we see that there are often shortcomings, says Elisabeth Dahlin.

The Ombudsman for Children has on several occasions criticized the government for the fact that asylum and migration legislation does not live up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In a complementary report to the UN, the authority writes that the investigations that form the basis for Sweden’s new migration policy do not take children’s rights into consideration. They write that Sweden must ensure children’s right to be heard within the framework of asylum processes and that children’s own reasons for asylum must be investigated. 

– It is important to have a proper basis for decision-making that analyzes the consequences of a deportation decision for the child, Elisabeth Dahlin says.

The Principle of the Best Interests of the Child 

In the year 2020, 3,836 children received deportation orders, of which the authority was able to deport 1,033 children who had to leave the country. In 2021, 1,160 children were deported and in 2022, a total of 1,299 children were deported. 

– In my work with unaccompanied minors, I see a high degree of inhumanity in these deportations, says human rights lawyer Parul Sharma, who is one of those protesting the deportation of Duaa to Pakistan.

She finds it outrageous that 200 children have already been deported before the first quarter of 2023 ends. In her work, Parul Sharma meets many families living in legal limbo under the threat of deportation and she tries to stay in touch with those whose decisions are enforced. 

– Two children, aged four and six, both born in Sweden, are currently in a dangerous situation in Kyrgyzstan after being deported from Sweden, says Parul Sharma.  

Their mother was abused and raped by her husband while they were living in Sweden. The authorities documented everything, but despite this, the mother and her children were deported back to Kyrgyzstan, where they are now struggling to survive.

– The woman is scared to death of running into her husband and his abusive family, so she has been hiding in a new city for the past two years, says Parul Sharma, who, with the help of a private fundraiser, sends the woman SEK 3000 every month for housing, food and education. She believes that without the financial support, the woman would have disappeared into sex trafficking.

– The two kids are still asking when they will be allowed to go home to Sweden, a country where they spent their first years with friends, play, safety and preschool, says Parul Sharma and continues: 

– This single case is a classic example of what happens when children are deported. How can such a deportation be justified as being in the best interest of a child? 

Deportation Stopped by the Supreme Court

In February, the Migration supreme court issued a judgment overturning a deportation decision made by the Swedish Migration Agency. The case concerns a girl who was born in Sweden in 2019 and who has been in legal limbo ever since. 

Her mother sought asylum due to threats from her family in Nigeria before the girl was born. The Migration Agency rejected the asylum application, but when the mother passed away, the case was taken up by the Migration Court. Some of the grounds for protection included the risk of genital mutilation and the threat from the family. The court agreed with the Migration Board, stating that the girl had not made it likely that she risked being persecuted or other treatment requiring protection in Nigeria. 

The defense attorneys appealed the decision and wanted the girl’s father, who is in Greece and who can confirm the story of the threat from the family, and the foster home in Sweden, who can prove the girl’s connection to Sweden, to be heard as witnesses in an interview – something that the Migration Court rejected.

The Migration Supreme Court now states that the girl should have been entitled to an interview, despite her young age. It writes in its judgment that:

”The fact that she is of such low age that she cannot be expected to give an in-depth account of the detailed circumstances relating to her stated grounds for a residence permit does not mean that an oral hearing should be considered unnecessary in the Migration Court. 

On the other hand, with the best interests of the child principle in mind, there is in many cases a particularly limited space to consider that any verbal evidence presented in support of the child’s case is unnecessary and therefore should be rejected.” 

– There is a need to get better at considering the best interests of the child in several different parts of the process and really weigh it up as far as possible, says Sofia Rasmussen at Save the Children. 

She says that they can often see shortcomings in the Migration Agency’s process, but says that there is also ongoing internal work at the agency to become better.

– The Migration Agency has recently carried out a review of certain parts where they also point out that they are lacking in justifications for why they reach a certain decision, says Sofia Rasmussen. 

She says that the consequences of an expulsion can be very different and that it is not always bad, but that the most important thing is that the best interests of the child have been properly considered. 

– You have to look at the overall picture for the child in question, and it’s important to provide the reasons why you land on a certain decision, says Sofia Rasmussen.

The Children Who are Being Deported

The deportation of children is a matter of concern for civil society and several fundraising campaigns are taking part to stop deportations. Below we list some cases that have drawn the public’s attention: 

12-year-old Duaa, who suffers from disabilities, is being deported to Pakistan but her mother is allowed to stay in Sweden. Duaa was born and raised in Sweden. The decision has led to protests and strong criticism of the Swedish Migration Agency.

Nine-year-old Julia will be deported to an unknown country. Julia was abandoned by her mother when she was a baby, now she is to be deported and no one knows to which country, the only question is when and where. Julia has moved between different foster homes for most of her life and has never had a real home address, according to Head Topics Sweden. 

Ten-year-old Laura is being deported to Nicaragua, but her parents are allowed to stay in Sweden. Laura’s passport has expired and she needs to renew it to extend her residence in Sweden. But the nearest Nicaraguan embassy is in Germany where getting a new passport means a longer waiting period so it risks arriving too late. Laura has to go back to her home country to apply for a new residence permit.

A family that has lived in Sweden for eleven years is at risk of being deported to Bangladesh, even though it is a country they have never been in. 

A girl called Lilla (Little in Swedish) M, who is barely three years old, is at risk of deportation. Lilla M was taken into care when she was four months old and placed in a foster family. The Swedish Migration Agency has decided to deport Lilla M together with her biological mother, with whom the foster family believes she has no connection.

After twelve years in Sweden, parts of the Eskender family risk being deported to a country they barely recognize. 

Three children, aged 12, 14 and 16 and originally from Afghanistan, are to be deported with their parents to Italy. 

Faith Anyango

If you want to help us add to the list of children at risk of deportation, write to faith@globalbar.se

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