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Cablegate: Rise in Afghan and Somali Minors to Sweden, Norway

VZCZCXRO9249
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR
RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSM #0597/01 2611428
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181428Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4728
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STOCKHOLM 000597

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL UNHCR EUN NO FI SW
SUBJECT: RISE IN AFGHAN AND SOMALI MINORS TO SWEDEN, NORWAY
AND FINLAND

REF: A. HELSINKI 574
B. OSLO 525
C. STOCKHOLM 452

1. (U) Summary: A sharp rise in unaccompanied minors from
Afghanistan and Somalia has been reported in Sweden, Norway
and Finland, according to UNHCR's regional office in
Stockholm. UNHCR explains that the teens are smuggled
through Europe in order to escape deteriorating security and
economic situations in their home countries. The
newly-arrived individuals have put a strain on existing host
country asylum procedures. Legal experts at UNHCR and
Amnesty International have raised concerns about how the
Swedish Migration Board (SMB) processes minors and warned
that young people are at risk for criminal activity,
religious radicalization and trafficking. Separately, the UN
announced in late August that it would send an official from
UNHCR to monitor how the SMB handles cases, in part because
of the SMB's decision to resume deportations of Iraqi asylum
seekers. In both Sweden and Norway, applications from Iraqi
asylum seekers are down considerably from previously years,
although Finland has experienced a boomlet in Iraqi
applications in the first half of 2009. The situation of
unaccompanied minors entering EU countries will discussed at
a September 21 Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in
Brussels. End Summary.

-------------------------------------
A WAVE OF UNACCOMPANIED AFGHAN MINORS
-------------------------------------

2. (U) An unprecedented number of unaccompanied Afghan
minors, primarily male, are arriving in Sweden, Norway, and
Finland, according to Liv Feijen, Head of Protection Unit, at
the UNHCR's Regional Office for the Baltic and Nordic
Countries in Stockholm. In a mid-August meeting with Poloff,
Feijen reviewed the latest trends from migration authorities
in all three countries showing that Sweden received 347
Afghan minors in 2008 and an additional 291 arrived in the
first half of 2009. In Norway, the increase is even more
dramatic -- 1,003 young Afghanis arrived between January and
July of this year as compared to 579 processed over the
entire last year. In Finland, 43 Afghan teens applied for
asylum between January and June in contrast to a total of 63
in 2008.

3. (U) Feijen attributed the increase to the deteriorating
security and economic situation in Kabul. According to
press reports and evidence collected by UNCHR, the teens are
smuggled from Afghanistan over the border to Iran. Once in
Iran, the boys are sent to Turkey and on to Greece where they
jump onto trucks and travel further into Europe. In Sweden,
most arrive in the southern city of Malmo after crossing the
Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden. The payment for
the smugglers is often raised by the boys' home communities,
said Feijen, with the intention that the boys will then send
money back home once they land a job in Europe. The entire
journey may take up to one year. According Feijen, minors
who live outside the social system remain vulnerable to
criminal activity, possible religious radicalization and
trafficking.

---------------------------------
TRENDS FOR SOMALI AND IRAQI TEENS
---------------------------------

4. (U) Underage Somali applications for asylum are also
growing in Sweden and Norway. The SMB reports that Somalis
now constitute the largest group seeking asylum in Sweden.
Between January and June, there were 355 Somali minors who
applied for asylum in Sweden in contrast to 345 who had
applied during the entire previous year. In Norway, figures
from the UNHCR show that 214 applications were made by minor
Somalis in the first part of the year as compared to 117 in
all of 2008. In Finland, where this trend is less
pronounced, UNHCR reports that 124 applications from Somali
teens have been lodged this year (Jan. - June) and that a
total of 329 were recorded last year.

5. (U) While there has been a steady stream of unaccompanied
minors from Iraq into Scandinavia, the number has decreased
from previous years. In Sweden, the SMB says that overall
Iraqi asylum applications are down 74% from last year. In
2008, 464 minors applied for asylum in Sweden as compared to
just 58 who have applied in the first part of 2009. This
decrease is a result of many factors, including the SMB's
position that asylum seekers may be returned to Iraq because
of the improving security situation there. In Norway, 364
Iraqi minors applied for asylum in 2008 while only 49 have
applied so far this year. However, in Finland there is a
boomlet of Iraqi asylum seekers, according to UNHCR -- 129

STOCKHOLM 00000597 002 OF 002


minors applied for asylum between January and June this year
as compared to 179 who applied in all of 2008 (ref A).

-------------------
POLICY IMPLICATIONS
-------------------

6. (U) On a national level, the increase in the arrival of
unaccompanied minors has put a strain on existing host
country asylum processing procedures, said Feijen. In
Sweden, minors live in transit housing until a municipality
agrees to take them in, but fewer than half of the 290
Swedish municipalities have agreed to take in minors, leaving
them without permanent housing or schools and prompting
authorities in Malmo to call for other Swedish communities to
share the resettlement burden. Feijen noted that in Finland
new facilities have been built to accommodate underage asylum
seekers, requiring unexpected increases in budgetary
allocations. She also reported that in Norway these
increases have been exacerbated by political campaigning
leading up to the September general election in which
anti-immigrant rhetoric gained traction (ref B).

7. (U) At the EU level, asylum policy in the EU will come
into focus this fall as the Stockholm Program is debated (ref
C). Feijen directed Poloff a to June 2009 UNHCR report
recognizing that "asylum applications from persons of the
same nationalities, with the similar histories, have
divergent outcomes from one Member State to another."
According to the report, the best interests of unaccompanied
minors should be given highest priority, especially regarding
decisions to return them to their countries of origin. A
September 15 seminar in Brussels sponsored by the Swedish EU
Presidency and the humanitarian agency Save the Children
addressed unaccompanied minors in EU countries and continued
discussions on this topic will be held at the Justice and
Home Affairs Council meeting on September 21.

8. (U) Finally, at the international level, the UN announced
in late August that a UNCHR official would spend nine months
monitoring how the SMB processes asylum decisions. The UNHCR
has been a stern critic of Swedish migration policies,
specifically since deportations to Iraq were resumed in 2008.
In a September 11 meeting with an Embassy representative,
Madelaine Seidlitz, legal expert at Amnesty International,
further questioned the SMB's process for determining the age
of minors. Since the majority arrive in Sweden without legal
documents, the SMB must establish an age, which Seidlitz said
is often approximated by x-raying hands or reviewing dental
cards. Seidlitz suggested that the SMB would assign the
oldest age possible so that the individual could be processed
as an adult and returned home more easily.

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (U) Swedish officials are treating this problem largely as
it relates to humanitarian and trafficking concerns, but not
so much as the intrinsic radicalization problem it is. But
we expect this will change given increasing media coverage of
Swedish-passport holding extremists both here and abroad,
END COMMENT.
BARZUN

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