Man and boy in silhouette
Agron and Etrit at the asylum detention centre. Credit: Richard Orange / Radio Sweden

Lawyer: "Detention of child asylum seekers increasing"

Sweden's border police have been criticised for seizing six families – most of them undocumented migrants – at a church-run event and then holding several children in a detention centre. Radio Sweden has visited the centre.

Agron and his 11-year-old son Etrit – neither using their real names – were in their fourth day at an asylum detention centre in Åstorp, outside Helsingborg in southern Sweden, when Radio Sweden met them. 

"I think it's like Guantanamo here. I don't understand how small, small children can get in this place," Agron said. 

Agron, his wife and two children were among the six families attending a day camp organised by the Swedish church that was raided by around 30 police on Friday. 

Twenty people were at the camp, including 10 children, and 16 of them have no Swedish residence permits.

Eva-Gun Westford, a spokesperson for the Skåne police, says the police generally try to avoid bringing children into custody, take care to be sensitive, and limit any detention of children to 72 hours.  

In Agron's case, though, the detention order for his two children has been extended for another 72 hours.

The family was first seized on Friday, and arrived at the detention centre at around 2am on Saturday morning, Agron says.

They briefly left on Monday as they were taken to the Danish border to be deported, but the action was called off for legal reasons and the family returned to the asylum seekers' detention centre in Åstorp. 

Hanna Scott, a lawyer with the charity Skåne Stadsmissionen, who is representing the two children, says that she has appealed the detention orders. They did not meet procedural safeguards and were neither necessary nor proportionate, she says.

"What we're seeing right now is that there has been an increase in the number of children in detention, and that's a very worrying trend," Scott says. 

"And it's particularly worrying because the police are cutting corners and not making best-interest-of-the-child determinations." 

The raid was criticised because it took place at an event organised by the Church of Sweden and the border police have in the past avoided mounting raids on such events. 

But Leif Fransson, operations head of the border police in southern Sweden, told Swedish Radio on Monday that, under Swedish law, there are no such "safe zones" and the concept of sanctuary does not apply.

Update: On Wednesday morning, Agron and his family were deported to Albania, according to Scott.

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