Police describe growing group of north African youths on streets

Police in Stockholm are saying there is a growing number of youths from north African countries who come to Sweden unaccompanied and often end up as criminals on the streets.

From 2012 to 2014 the Stockholm Police registered 1,839 cases of youths "without permanent residence and without a guardian in Sweden," according to an internal report read by daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

"We're seeing an increase in crime, especially drug-related offenses," said Patrick Ungsäter who is the chief of the border police for the Stockholm region.

Ungsäter estimated that at present there are around 200 children on the streets in Stockholm. The group in question is primarily comprised of unaccompanied refugee children from Morocco, Algeria and other north-African countries.

The youths often come to Europe to escape broken families and poor job prospects. Police in Gothenburg told the newspaper that they have seen a rise in similar cases.

"What makes the investigative work difficult is that there are many questions about the boys' identities, who they are and how old they actually are," said Birgitta Dellenhed, who leads the youth division for the local police in Gothenburg.

DN reports that as minors the youths are often released from police custody before the investigation is completed. Many quickly commit new crimes.

The newspaper has previously reported on unaccompanied youths coming to Sweden from north African countries. While many seek asylum, few are considered to have sufficient cause.

Many of the youths become trapped in criminal lifestyles despite the fact that social services sometimes find places for them with foster families or in so-called HVB homes, centers which offer treatment for adolescents.

But sometimes, when there are no other options, the youths are kept in old, converted nursing homes maintained by the National Board of Institutional Care. In the frist half of 2015 there were 139 unaccompanied children offered care by the board. The majority of youths came from Morocco.

The board, in order to cope with the increased need, is now requesting an additional SEK 139 million by 2018 to help expand their institutional capacity including adding beds for incoming unaccompanied youths.