Photo: Mikael Funke/Swedish Radio

Underground child refugees off the police radar

The number of lone child refugees who have gone underground in Sweden is increasing, shows an investigation by Swedish Radio, and some of them are not being searched for.

"These children risk getting into crime or being used by employers, or even prostituting themselves," says Kristina Hallander Spångberg, head of Malmö's border police unit.

In the past five years, over a thousand children who have come to Sweden as lone refugees have gone underground either before or after applying for asylum. Over 300 disappeared during 2012, nearly double the number from the year before.

"It was hard. I did not know anyone here," says Jawad, a 16-year-old who left his temporary housing when he found out he wouldn't be granted permission to stay in Sweden. "I lived a few days with various friends, and stayed with a family for a few."

It is the border police's duty to find and deport those who have been refused asylum. But no one is out to find child refugees who have gone underground before applying.

"If these were Swedish children, I'm sure there would be much more of a controversy," says Helena Karlén, general secretary of Ecpat, an organisation against human traficking.

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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