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Child refugees who become Swedes cannot reunite with family

Ahmed el Abbasi outside his house in Bodafors, Småland.
Ahmed el Abbasi outside his house in Bodafors, Småland. Credit: Revend Shexo.

Unaccompanied child asylum seekers are being denied the right to bring their families to join them in Sweden once they have been given Swedish citizenship, Swedish Radio has discovered.

“I didn’t know that Swedish citizenship could do this,” Ahmed el Abbasi, one of the young people affected by the law, told Swedish Radio. “If I’d known, I would never have applied for it.”

The issues stems from a paragraph in a 1997 amendment to Sweden’s migration law, which says that for a child to be able to bring their parents to Sweden that the child must be both a foreign citizen and unmarried. Once the child receives Swedish citizenship, they are no longer considered foreign nationals and no longer have the right to family reunification.

Asylum lawyer Karin Gyllenring said the way the law was being interpreted disadvantages young people – many of them stateless – who take Swedish citizenship.

“This has meant that I have to advise certain clients not to apply for citizenship,” she told Swedish Radio.

Judge Fridström told Swedish Radio that she had no doubt that she had interpreted the law correctly and that she did not see room for “any other interpretation”.

Gyllenring said that she did not think Ingela Fridström, a judge at Sweden’s Migration Court of Appeal, had misinterpreted the law when she made the landmark judgement that has led to the problem.

Instead, she believes the law itself was against the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The text of the law stands in contradiction of international law and EU law," Gyllenring said.

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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