Migration Minister Tobias Billström

Criticism of Gov't Refugee Housing Plan

Migration minister, Tobias Billström, sparked outrage among groups working with refugees this week when he announced plans to build a children's home in Afghanistan to return child asylum seekers who arrive in Sweden.

Last year more than 2,000 children under 18 applied for asylum in Sweden, most of them from countries at war such as Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

The minister claimed in an interview with Sudsvenksan newspaper on Thursday that providing what he called "care facilities" for the children in their home countries would make it easier to reunite them with their families.  

However Johanna Fagerström at the Swedish Afghanistan Committee, which runs development projects in Afghanistan says that the security situation on the ground is too unstable to consider sending children there.

Groups working with child refugees here in Sweden say the proposal is a populist one, influenced by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party, who currently enjoy enough support in the polls to win a seat in this year's general election.

Amnesty international also says that the plans are misguided and that more needs to be done to investigate the causes of children fleeing from their home countries.

Elisabeth Löfgren at Amnesty international says that the debate in Sweden is in line with a general hardening of refugee policies across the European Union and that the Swedish government is playing into the hands of the country's anti-immigrant party just months ahead of a general election.

However Ulrik Åshuvud at the Swedish Migration Board says the minister's comments have been blown out proportion and that the plans are intended to improve conditions for those children who want to return home. He says there are no plans to deter underage asylum seekers or to forcibly deport them.

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