Unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Sweden are not being properly taken care of and often have to endure long wait times while their requests are being processed, according to a report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch. Traumatized refugee girls in particular were not given adequate healthcare treatment by the state, according to the report.
More than 35,000 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in Sweden in 2015, up from 7,000 in 2014. Escalating conflicts throughout the Middle East and North Africa sent more than 1 million people seeking asylum in Europe in 2015, with the vast majority of them qualifying as bona fide political refugees, according to the U.N.
Most refugee children in Sweden are from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Eritrea, Iraq and Ethiopia, according to the report. Human Rights Watch found that one of the main shortcomings of the Swedish system in this case was long waiting time, with some children waiting as long as five months for their applications to be processed. Inadequate services for children who have experienced sexual assault was also a problem, including a lack of mental and physical health screenings upon arrival to the country.
“At the national level, the government is not taking the steps it could to provide oversight. No national agency has the responsibility to track guardianship appointments, living arrangements, school enrollment, health screenings, or assessments by social workers,” read an excerpt from the report, adding, “This data should guide policymaking and help ensure that municipalities are fulfilling their responsibilities to care for children.”
Sweden has been a popular destination for asylum-seekers as it has a stronger economy and social services system, and many Swedish leaders have championed an open door-policy on refugees. The country has long prided itself on being a haven for political asylum-seekers, and it welcomed thousands of Jewish people from neighboring Denmark during World War II. Nearly the entire Danish Jewish population sought refuge in Sweden, with many escaping in the 1940s via fishing boats.