Although child marriage is prohibited in Sweden, a number of municipalities actually allow married refugee children to live together with their spouses, the Swedish Radio revealed in January. Now, the Swedish Migration Board is making a strenuous effort to improve its handling of refugee children who happen to be married.
"Our focus shall be on protecting the children. We will take care of the internal report's findings and make this particular group more prominent in the agency's work," says Cecilia Borin, head of the quality department of the Swedish Migration Board.
Sweden currently lacks any specific regulations for administrators who happen to encounter a refugee child who states that he or she is married. Not even the current procedures are being followed in their entirety, the report says. At present, the responsibility for the unaccompanied children's accommodation lies with municipalities, regardless of their marital status.
The report also shows that almost half of the cases identified are dealt with concurrently, i.e. the married child's asylum application is handled together the adult spouse's.
"The same principle is applied as when an adult woman is seeking asylum together with her adult husband," says Cecilia Borin.
According to the Ekot program of the Swedish Radio, in five of the six municipalities concerned, children aged over 15 are allowed to continue living with their spouse, if they so desire, even though child marriage is prohibited. Liselotte Tronders of Stockholm's social emergency service argues that it is difficult to do otherwise, as a child during the interview can always say they want to live with their spouse.
Currently, the municipality of Gothenburg is the only one in the whole of Sweden, where juvenile spouses are separated from their adult partners. Juno Blom of the administrative board of the province of Östergötland believes that the time-tested age limit of 18 years must apply.
"One cannot expect the children, especially if they have been married off, to have the guts to reveal it to the Swedish authorities. Therefore it is important that the authorities accept the responsibility and take care of the child. It is also an important signal that no more children will be married off en route to Sweden," said Blom as quoted by the Swedish Radio.