Stealing Innocence: The Theft of Refugee Children in Sweden

February 23, 2022

Sweden's policy on seizing refugee children is illegal, immoral, and untenable.
Children play in the courtyard of an abandoned school used by volunteers for hosting Syrian and Afghan refugees in Athens. Photo by Aris Messinis AFP via Getty Images

Finally, it’s been put to rest. The passionate and polemical debate between those of true faith and the heretics; equality and exclusivity; those who believe in freedom and those who oppress. If anything could sound the moral death knell of Europe’s purported universalism and nonsenses their ethical absolutism, it is their treatment of refugee children. The awful abuse by those with unrivalled power upon the powerless – that too, children, is the surest indicator of venality.

Whether it’s the sexual abuse of unaccompanied children throughout Europe or the recent forcible seizure of children in Sweden, something truly unholy is happening. What kind of sick, depraved system relishes in inflicting further suffering on the grief-stricken? Pity the weak in the lands claiming liberty. More specifically, the manner in which Sweden is precariously confiscating refugee children from their biological parents is outright shocking. Not just in the grotesque manner that children have been treacherously taken away from their parents, but in the cruel, sanctimonious justifications by Swedish Social Services.

High-sounding, grand glutinous words that boldly advocate for child welfare are parroted to claim the moral high ground and then weaponized to pulverize their tender lives. Imagine the utter hypocrisy of justifying mental anguish upon already troubled, scarred families and their children, all of whom fled war. This is a criminal absurdity. Without due care, thought or consideration, the Swedish state violently disrupts the lives of some of the most alienated segments of their own society, and justifies inflicting violence with reckless allegations of parental impropriety. Could anything be more perverse and misshapen? Villainy wears many masks, none more dangerous than virtue.

Critically, to further explore this crime of stealing innocence from war-scarred refugee children, it is important to judiciously deconstruct the claims that Sweden makes. How does it justify such unscrupulous behavior? In other words, what is the rationale for taking children away from their loved ones? To begin, Sweden justifies these extreme steps based on promoting their own self-image of being ‘champions of children’s rights and by claiming “Sweden has very strong legislation in order to protect the welfare of children.” Of course, nothing more to talk about then. Let’s just take their word for it.

The Swedish state – through its child welfare services  – the ‘Social,’took possession of a newborn baby immediately after delivery.

With such logic, it is inconceivable that the Swedish social system is not altruistic, trustworthy and reliable. However, when probing the reasoning behind child seizures, the opposite is true. Stealing children is often on unfounded, flimsy allegations by third-parties, unverified checks of domestic abuse, or dubious contentions of extremism. The Swedish state – through its child welfare services  – the ‘Social,’ rapidly intervenes without a process of mediation.

In one alarming case, they took possession of a newborn baby immediately after delivery. What is especially unbelievable is that any basic level of understanding of the principles of social work and child welfare undisputedly cautions against taking children away from their families and allows so only under the strictest situations and as a ‘last resort.’

Mirroring that, the United  Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child firmly advocates against institutional care unless absolutely necessary. This is unsurprising. Academic literature, and social work case studies involving children taken from their own families is quite clear because the immense trauma that is inflicted on the children when uprooted from their own biological parents.

Statistically, no matter how dire the situation, agreed-upon expert knowledge in the field of social work, such as from reputable Canadian Islamic scholar, academic and social worker, with expertise in child welfare, Sadique Pathan, clearly states that “it’s better to keep families together and intervene in other ways to ensure child safety.”

Yet, that did not happen. No warnings. No explanation. No sympathy. Outright theft of these children while claiming it is for their own good. Moreover, these refugee families all suffer from varying levels of Post-Traumatic Stress disorder, are unfamiliar with the social/cultural mores in their newfound homes and are unable to effectively communicate in Swedish. Nor do they understand the law. Were lawyers present while their children were being taken away? Have families had medical professionals assigned to them for psychiatric support? Did interventions occur to warn the families accused of domestic abuse? No, nothing.

A few further problematic issues further stand out: (a) What is the record of Swedish social services when seizing children; (b) How effective are they in providing a loving, caring home to the seized children; (c) Are the religious, moral rights of the parents being respected in raising the stolen children as Muslims? First, the situation for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe, and state-seized refugee children in Sweden specifically, is abysmal.

A report, based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Sweden from January 25 to February 8, 2016 identifies key shortcomings in the Swedish child welfare system. As a result of these shortcomings, some children “are not receiving the care and attention they need and to which they are entitled.” In other words, the evidence by independent investigators is the Swedish child welfare program suffers from serious drawbacks. Second, there are horrific stories of child abuse occurring in the homes of the children by their adoptive guardians.

The situation for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe, and state-seized refugee children in Sweden specifically, is abysmal.

In fact, on October 16, 2021, Swedish TV Channel aired a segment on the sexual abuse of Syrian refugee children, including instances of rape of children by their Swedish legal guardian. Also, there are at least, two cases of Syrian children, Yasmine and Dina, who were forcibly taken away from their families and later committed suicide.

VIDEO: Refugee parents say their children are ‘kidnapped’ by Sweden’s social services

The suicide of those two children should raise alarm about the repercussions of the Swedish Social horrific process. So much for the unquestionable standards of Swedish child welfare. Third, the seized children rarely are placed in the care of families that recognize, or even respect, the rights of their families to have their children raised according to their own faith and ethical values. Is this not basic in a democracy which recognizes and allegedly champions pluralism? Again, no concern for the Muslim faith and heritage of these children.

Altogether, the Sweden government’s reasoning is not convincing. In fact, it is eerily familiar to the residential school system in Canada that led to unspeakable crimes against Native Canadian children who were seized by the state. Similarly, the horrible situation of child welfare services in Sweden curiously ignores the following: clear directives to only institutionalize children as a last resort; ensure the safety of refugee children; account for the horrific suicide of refugee children and prevent the alarming cases of rape and drug abuse by refugee children taken away from their families.

All of this, unequivocally, indicates that that Sweden’s policy on seizing refugee children is illegal, immoral, and untenable. And what we are witnessing in the new emerging global political, socio-economic, and cultural transformations is not just the making of a counter-world order. Rather, it is the unmasking of the utter hypocrisy, of countries like Sweden, who advocate for rights of children in order to erase them.

Farhan Mujahid Chak is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Gulf Studies Program, College of Arts and Science, Qatar University.