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Few child asylum seekers allowed to stay after turning 18

Published tisdag 8 augusti kl 12.17
An unaccompanied child asylum seeker outside a n accommodation centre in Pajala.
An unaccompanied child asylum seeker outside a n accommodation centre in Pajala. Credit: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Very few unaccompanied child asylum seekers continue to receive support from the municipalities where they have been based after they turn 18, despite new state funding announced in June, a Swedish Radio investigation has found.

If child asylum seekers turn 18 while their case is still being decided, responsibility for looking after them passes from the municipality where they have been housed to the Migration Agency.

The Migration Agency often then offers accommodation in another part of the country, meaning many face a choice of moving, and so leaving their school, friends and support network, or becoming homeless.

At the end of June, Sweden’s government announced SEK 195 million in funding to help municipalities continue to house and support child asylum seekers after they turn 18.

But Reza, who came to Malmö from Afghanistan two years ago, has been homeless since turning 18 four months ago.

 “I live at the station, in the forests, in parks and on the streets,” he told Swedish Radio.

He said the Migration Agency had offered him accommodation outside Jönköping.

 “There’s nothing there for me,” he complained. “No friends, no school. School is very important to me.”

Unaccompanied minors who have begun upper secondary education have the right to continue at school after they turn 18.

But the responsibility for organizing a school place lies with them and not with the municipality.

Hans Karlsson, the head of health and social support division at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, said that it would take time for municipalities to use the new funding.

 “The funding that has come in during the summer is still too recent to absorb into municipal plans,” he said.

 He said the money available was anyway insufficient to fund the care of so many young adults.  

 “In reality this doesn’t really fully cover the costs. That’s to say this represents yet another transfer of costs from the state to the muncipalities.”

Between the start of August and the end of this year, around 4,700 unaccompanied child asylum seekers are expected to turn 18.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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