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Desperate Refugee Kids' Online 'Suicide Pacts' Startle Sweden

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Sweden, which has been struggling to accommodate newcomers ever since the onslaught of the migrant crisis, was recently perplexed by another closely-related problem. Concerns have been raised that refugee children are using online forums to plan mass suicides for fear of being deported.
Migrants, mainly from Syria, prepare to board a train headed for Sweden, at Padborg station in southern Denmark September 10, 2015 - Sputnik International
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Following the alarm that was sounded by the network Vi Står Inte Ut ('We Cannot Stand It'), which works for the rights of unaccompanied refugee children, Swedish government authorities tasked with representing the rights of children have been at pains to investigate the matter and establish whether the children were in need of adequate care.

According to Vi Står Inte Ut, which recently campaigned for amnesty for underage migrants that have resided in Sweden for over a year, desperate refugee kids have turned to online forums to create "suicide pacts." Some claim that they would die anyway once they'd had their asylum applications rejected and were deported.

"Everybody we chat with says they do not want to live longer," Kinna Skoglund from the network told the Swedish tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet.

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Indeed, it sometimes goes far beyond threats and calls for attention. Three Afghan refugee boys have taken their lives in various accommodations across Sweden since the end of January alone, following three similar cases in 2016. At present, there are no statistics on how many unaccompanied young people have chosen to take their lives after being refused a Swedish residence permit or for want of a Swedish social security number.

Nevertheless, psychologists who come into contact with underage asylum seekers see a clear link between a rise in depression, the number of suicides and suicide attempts following the recent toughening of Sweden's asylum law, which nonetheless remains among the least restrictive in Europe.

The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden's press officer Hans Reuterskiöld told Swedish news outlet The Local that there were worrying signs, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts, among the refugee children, suggesting that uncertainty regarding their future in Sweden aggravates the mental trauma they sustained before arriving in Europe.

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The Swedish Migration Board has previously received severe criticism for its flawed age assessment procedures when scrutinizing unaccompanied underage asylum seekers, many of whom are said to be in fact adults. In February, the handling of applications from asylum seekers whose age couldn't be verified was suspended until conclusive medical examinations could be conducted.

"Last year, the Swedish Migration Board performed 3,400 write-ups. Once you are considered an adult, you lose your custodian and school networks. This means 3,400 [refugee children] are at risk now," Kinna Skoglund told Aftonbladet.

Today, 16 and 17-year-olds that are not considered eligible for asylum in Sweden but cannot to be dispatched immediately due to the lack of a processing system in their home countries can be granted temporary residency permits before being deported when they turn 18.

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Sweden, a nation of 10 million, received a record 163,000 asylum applications in 2015, of which 35,369 were from underage refugees. In 2016, 2,199 "lone refugee children" sought asylum in the Nordic country, according to the Swedish Migration Board. According to statistics, 88 percent of the asylum requests from underage children processed in 2015 were granted, as opposed to 86 percent in 2016.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch criticized Sweden's treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, stressing a lack of adequate psychological care and long waiting periods.

 

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