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Comments from UNICEF Sweden on the Swedish Government’s 4th report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child 2007
Introduction UNICEF Sweden has over the past few years enhanced the work in the field of child rights issues in Sweden. Our prioritized issues are the rights of children seeking asylum or who are undocumented and the rights of children victims of trafficking. The overall aim is to ensure a full and comprehensive implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In January 2008 a Swedish version of the Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child was launched. We hope that this handbook will be a working tool for decision makers when implementing the CRC. The Handbook has been financed by the Swedish Government. In our advocacy work we appreciate the dialogue with the Government in different child rights topics. We are concerned with the fact that children seeking asylum or who are undocumented and children victims of trafficking are not enough protected and that their rights are not enough realized. We believe that these children who are in a particularly vulnerable situation need more attention and measures in terms of legislation, training of decision makers and allocation of resources. Especially the four general principles of the CRC (non-discrimination, best interest, development and respect for the views) must be taken more into consideration in all matters affecting these children. I. General measures of implementation UNICEF Sweden believes that the principles and provisions in the CRC would be considered more seriously in the judicial system if the CRC would be incorporated as such into the Swedish legislation and became Swedish law. The present method of transformation is not enough. It is necessary to strengthen the status of the CRC in order to really implement it in different areas and levels in the Swedish society. If the CRC as a whole would be incorporated into the Swedish legislation, its principles and provisions could be directly invoked before the courts and applied by national authorities. We believe that this would imply that the Swedish Government, national or local authorities as well as municipalities must see their role as fulfilling clear legal obligations to each and every child. An incorporation of the CRC into the Swedish legislation would imply a need to consider the CRC not only article by article, but also holistically, recognizing the interdependence and indivisibility of children’s human rights. Although this would be an important legal reform which would promote the implementation process, the transformation of different laws is still needed to ensure that all relevant domestic legislation is brought into compliance with the CRC. UNICEF Sweden also believes that learning of the CRC and its implications should be compulsory in national curricula. III. General principles Non-discrimination UNICEF Sweden is concerned that the provision of non-discrimination is not fully respected and that each child within Sweden’s jurisdiction does not have access to the rights in the CRC. According to Ar-

ticle 2, States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the CRC to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind. The State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status of the child’s parents. Children “in hiding” that is children who have had their asylum application rejected and who are av, oiding enforcement of a refusal of entry or deportation order, are not entitled to go to school. UNICEF Sweden believes that this is in contradiction with the CRC. These children are deprived of their right to education. “Undocumented” children, that is children who might have had their asylum application rejected as well as children who have never applied for asylum or residence permit. These children do not have the same right to health care and education as for example asylum seeking children. UNICEF Sweden believes that these children must be granted access to the rights stipulated in the CRC. These both categories of children live “outside” the society under vulnerable conditions. They are “invisible” and excluded from enjoying several of their rights. Best interest of the child Methods need to be elaborated on how to assess the best interests of the child in the asylum procedure and when a child is a victim of trafficking. There must be indicators elaborated on what is in the best interests of the child and how to make these assessments. The assessment and the result of the assessment must be documented. Right to life and development This general principle has not been enough applied and implemented by the authorities regarding children seeking asylum and children victims of trafficking. This principle should be included when indicators are elaborated regarding the best interests of the child. Respect for the views of the child There is a need for regular training for staff at the Migration Board and the social welfare authorities on how to speak and communicate with children, how to assess the information received, the importance of documentation and follow-up discussions with the child regarding the decision. UNICEF Sweden has interviewed children and adolescents about their situation as asylum seekers in Sweden. The main finding is that the children do not know about their rights and cannot claim them during the asylum seeking period. We believe that it would be important to give appropriate information about the asylum process and the children’s rights during this time in a “child-friendly manner” It . is difficult for children to claim their rights if they do not know about them, for example the right to be heard and the right to health care. VI. Basic health and welfare Health and health care services UNICEF Sweden believes that there should be a legal right for all children in Sweden having the same right to health care services. This should be stipulated in the legislation. “Undocumented” children do not have the same right as for example children seeking asylum and children “in hiding” regarding health care services. “Undocumented” children are only entitled to emergency treatment. We believe that this is in contradiction with Article 24 (the right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health) and Article 2 (non-discrimination).

VII. Education, leisure and cultural activities Education UNICEF Sweden believes that there should be a legal right for all children in Sweden having the same right to education according to Article 28 (right to education) and Article 2 (non-discrimination) in the CRC. This should be stipulated in the legislation. Children “in hiding” and “undocumented” children do not have this right. There is now a law proposal regulating the right to education for children “in hiding” which we very much welcome. However , this law proposal does not include “undocumented” children. VIII. Special protection measures Children seeking asylum UNICEF Sweden believes that it is necessary with a specific provision in the legislation (the Aliens Act) concerning child specific forms of persecution in order to assure that children’s own asylum claims are considered properly. We believe that the different types of child specific forms of persecution must be clarified, e.g. the risk of being victim of forced labour, child marriage, trafficking, female genital mutilation or recruited as a child soldier. There must be some kind of general information regarding this, although an individual assessment has to be done according to the rule of law. Regularly training for decision makers are important to be able to make decisions that are based on a child rights perspective. The new Act on Representation and Custodianship for Unaccompanied Children has not been efficient enough to protect unaccompanied children from absconding following their arrival in Sweden. An overview of the legislation and fact findings is needed to be able to prevent and react to these disappearances. There is an urgent need to investigate different possibilities how to prevent the risk of being trafficked or exploited in other ways while the child is seeking asylum in Sweden. UNICEF Sweden is concerned about the Government’s proposal to make maintenance as a condition for family reunification. The Government’s position is to deny family reunification for families if the parent living in Sweden does not have a solid income or proper place to live. We believe that such a condition would be in conflict with several principles in the CRC, e.g. Article 3 (best interest), Article 6 (development), Article 9 (separation from parents) and Article 10 (family reunification). Children victims of trafficking UNICEF Sweden believes that there must be a stronger political will to prioritize measures to prevent trafficking and to support the victims of trafficking. A National Plan of Action must be adopted where preventive measures as well as support mechanisms are clarified regarding trafficking of children for different purposes. The provision in the Penal Code regarding trafficking must be changed. The criteria of having “control” over the victim must be deleted when the victim is a child. Any argumentation about the “free will” of the child must come to an end when it concerns trafficking. We believe that there should be a special provision in the Penal Code on trafficking in children. The concept of exploitation needs to be considered and clarified according to the provisions in the CRC and the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Closer cooperation between authorities such as the police, the welfare service authorities and the Migration Board is necessary in order to prevent trafficking and to protect children at risk of being

involved in trafficking. UNICEF Sweden believes that there is a need of awareness-raising among decision makers about trafficking and the extreme vulnerability of the victims. Training programmes are important on how to protect the rights of these children and how to speak and communicate with them. UNICEF Sweden in collaboration with the National Board of Health and Welfare have written a reference guide on protecting the rights of children who might be victims of trafficking. We hope that this will be a useful working tool for different authorities.