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25th Aug 2019

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Sweden woos Morocco on street children

  • Children in Morocco. (Photo: James/Flickr)

Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstroem, visited Rabat on Tuesday and Wednesday (6 and 7 September) in an attempt to lubricate deportations of Moroccan street children living in Sweden.

The readmission deal was concluded in May.

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Swedish authorities estimate that around 800 Moroccan minors are sleeping rough in Sweden. It has shown very difficult to get them to return home or away from the streets.

Some 225 young people have been ordered by Swedish authorities to leave, and most of them have since gone underground. Sweden's migration agency does not know how many actually left the country.

Wallstroem met with her counterpart Salaheddine Mezouar and was optimistic after the meeting that the deal would start working.

”There was good will on both sides”, Wallstroem told Swedish tabloid Expressen.

Meanwhile, Morocco’s minister of interior sounded like a solution was far off when he replied to a question by EUobserver during a visit in Brussels

”We have no information about these people,” Mohamed Hassad said during a conference at the European Parliament. ”Who are they, how did they get there, are they really Moroccans? We don’t know”, he said.

”These kids, we have been speaking about them for years, so I guess they are adults now,” he added.

More child criminals

Swedish NGOs and police say the readmission agreement isn’t working.

Tobias Glad from the charity Habibi told Swedish news agency TT young people are not welcomed by their families in Morocco, who send them back to Europe as soon as they return.

Elin Wernquist from Barnrattsbyran, another NGO, told Swedish Radio she wasn’t aware of a single case where a child had returned to Morocco.

She also worried that recent changes to Sweden’s migration laws - which cut social benefits for asylum seekers who refused to return home - would push the children further into the underworld.

”From our perspective, nothing has happened in terms of return. But when it comes to the social protection that Sweden offers, there has been a drastic deterioration, pushing these young people into crime and exploitation,” she said.

Policeman Kristian Freden, in charge of the unaccompanied minors at the Swedish border police, told Swedish radio he could see a small change in Morocco's attitude to take back their citizens.

But he agreed with Wernquist that more children had ended up on the street, where they engaged in crime and were exposed to abuse.

Morocco agreed to sign the readmission deal after the Swedish government earlier this year U-turned on a decision to recognise Western Sahara , which was illegally annexed by the north African kingdom.

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