In 2017, at least 56 children, mostly of foreign background, were taken out of Sweden against their will, which roughly corresponds to a child a week, according to an annual report by the National Competency Team Against Honor-Related Crime. At the same time, a great number of cases are expected to go unreported, thus never reaching the Swedish authorities.
"We don't even know the total number of cases. Children get abducted from the country without even being reported as missing," Competence Team development manager Juno Blom told national broadcaster SVT.
According to Blom, culture-related child abductions often involve a number of people living in Sweden, such as family members, relatives and clan members, who may be assigned various functions and tasks as the crime is planned out and implemented.
One of the main problems, according to Blom, is that Sweden's judicial organs, social services and police simply fail to act fast enough when it is suspected that children will be taken abroad.
"In the majority of cases, the child has signaled concern, but the environment has not understood it correctly or failed to react. Unfortunately, I often think that when the authorities are too passive while the surrounding collective is very active, the risk of children leaving Sweden increases," Juno Blom said.
Blom stressed that in the majority of cases children get abducted to countries "beyond the Schengen zone," which leaves the Swedish authorities "almost powerless." In a previous interview with the national daily Dagens Nyheter Blom argued that Sweden was "systematically abandoning" those children.
Overall, the Swedish Competency Team has processed 600 cases involving 798 people, an increase of 32 percent compared with 2016.
"Exposure is serious and extensive. It involves child marriages and forced marriages, children and young people being abducted from Sweden/forcibly left abroad, as well as threats and physical, psychological and sexual violence," the annual report said.
Similar Alert in Neighboring Country
Next-door in Norway, a similar national competency team processed 560 individual cases in 2017, of which 40 percent concerned children under the age of 18. Of the cases processed, 25 percent pertained to forced marriages, 14 percent to people sent abroad against their will and six percent to cases of genital mutilation. The majority of cases came via the Immigration Directorate.
Last week, a leaflet addressing the problem of child marriage caused a national uproar in Sweden and was withdrawn with a scandal. The brochure called "Information for you [who are] married to a child" was commissioned by the Swedish government and was accused of providing guidelines and including a separate section on sex.
The Swedish news outlet Nyheter Idag reported that two like-minded brochures, "Information for those new to Sweden, under 18 and married" and "Information for parents or relatives to a married child" were commissioned, but later retracted secretly.
The brochures caused a stir on Swedish social media, with users posting sarcastic remarks, such as "Information for you who is still a Social Democrat," "Information for you who throws hand grenades in residential areas," "Information for you who creates a caliphate," "Information for you who is wondering what the hell has happened to your country" and "Information for you who has a child who refuses forced marriage."