Unaccompanied minors arriving by train to Sweden. Photo: John Alexander Sahlin/TT.
Unaccompanied minors arriving by train to Sweden. Photo: John Alexander Sahlin/TT.

Few foster homes for refugees in rich areas

"When they understand that it is a pretty big responsibility, the interest hasn't remained"
3:22 min

Despite a law allowing the Swedish Migration Agency to require municipalities to house young asylum-seekers, certain municipalities are foisting that responsibility onto others.

Danderyd, the municipality with the highest average income in all of Sweden (according to the figures from 2014, the latest available) - almost double the national average, was assigned 62 unaccompanied minors to place in foster homes. However, only three of these youth have actually wound up living in foster care in Danderyd.

"It's the case right now that it is not so very easy to get a hold of foster homes, because there are so many unaccompanied minors coming. And I can wish that we would be able to have more foster homes in Danderyd, but we haven't managed to come up with more," the mayor of Danderyd, Olle Reichenberg, a member of the conservative Moderate party, told Radio Sweden.

He added that the social services have tried on several occasions to advertise in the local press and that they have marketed the idea at different informational meetings and in other ways. "I know that there are a fair number who have expressed interest. But then, when they understand that it is a pretty big responsibility, the interest hasn't remained," said Reichenberg.

Two years ago, the Migration Agency, with the help of a new law, started to require municipalities to find housing for unaccompanied minors who came to Sweden seeking asylum. The reason for this law was that some municipalities had been taking in a lot of the children, while others weren't taking in any, and as more children have sought asylum in Sweden, the queues grew in the municipalities that were available for these newcomers. One of the goals of the new law was that more municipalities would take responsibility for integrating these children and youth.

However, there is no legal hindrance for municipalities to place children assigned to them, elsewhere, and the vast majority of municipalities do this to some extent. But some municipalities, where the proportion of foreigners is already low, have placed many of these children in foster homes outside of the municipal limits. Vaxholm, the municipality with the fifth highest median income in Sweden, for example, has placed 23 kids in foster homes, but only one in its own municipality.

Sophia Öhvall Lindberg at the Swedish Migration Agency told Radio Sweden that this is not the intention.

"The aim is to create a more equal distribution, that's not achieved if municipalities are not in solidarity with each other," she says, adding that it's important for municipalities to see to it that they take care of the children that have been assigned to them, and that the municipalities should develop their own organizations to do so.

The mayor of Danderyd insists that above all, it's not where children are placed that matters, but that they get good care and good integration. However, Danderyd is now going to look into whether to open its own residential care home for young asylum seekers.

Another example of a municipality that has found homes for the young asylum seekers elsewhere is Sollentuna, where only 8 out of the 127 unaccompanied minors in foster homes were placed in the municipality. Sollentuna is number seven on the list of municipalities with highest average income.

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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