Married refugee minors allowed to live with adult spouses

2:07 min

Some municipalities allow unaccompanied minors to live with their spouses even though child marriage is illegal in Sweden, reports Swedish Radio News. 

Five out of the six municipalities that took in the largest number of unaccompanied minors last year sometimes allow married refugee minors to live with their adult spouses, according to Swedish Radio News. Married refugee minors are considered to be unaccompanied in Sweden as child marriage is illegal here.

Out of the six municipalities Malmö, Mölndal, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Sigtuna and Solna, it is only Gothenburg that always separates unaccompanied minors from their husbands or wives.

In the five other municipalities it is up to individual social workers to decide what they think is best for the child. In Malmö, the social services may allow unaccompanied minors over the age of 15 to live with their spouses, says Tarek Borg, head of the unit for unaccompanied minors in Malmö.

"If they are under the age of 15, they are placed in a transit accommodation, and if they are over 15 our social workers talk to them and make individual assessments and decide what they think is best," Borg says.

The six municipalities estimate that at least 70 married minors applied for asylum there last fall, most of them were between 15 and 17 years old.

Reacting to the story, Juno Blom at the County Administrative Board in Östergötland tells Swedish Radio News that these children may have been forced into marriage and that it is important to stick to the rules.

"It is important that Swedish authorities do their part and signal that child marriage is not legal so that children don't risk being forced into marriages on their way here," says Blom.

Liselotte Tronders, at the social services in Stockholm, says that the law does not specify how to separate unaccompanied minors from their spouses and says that it can be difficult.

"It's not like we just tell them not to live with their spouses and that is that. If we have to force someone not to live with their partner we may have to take them in and lock them up," Tronders says.

Tronders does, however, say that it is not ideal for married minors to live with their spouses.

"They shouldn't live together if possible, especially not if they are really young. But sometimes you come across two minors who are married to each other, so it is difficult to generalise," says Tronders.

Child marriage has been illegal in Sweden since 2014.