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Experts, families say Sweden's social system mistreats Muslim children

A man takes care of his baby in a baby stroller at Humlegarden in Stockholm on September 24, 2020. - While France has just increased paternity leave to 28 days, in Sweden, a pioneer in gender equality, parents share 480 days off, which can be taken until the child's 12th birthday at 80% of the salary for the first 390 days and fathers have a minimum of three months, but only half of them take full advantage of it. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
A man takes care of his baby in a baby stroller at Humlegarden in Stockholm on September 24, 2020 [JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images]

Following several months of protests by Muslim families who claim their children are being "kidnapped" by Swedish authorities, one of the founders of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights is putting a harsh spotlight on Swedish social services.

"They are kidnapping Muslim children, that's what I mean. They don't accept that they have other ways to live," said Siv Westerberg, an internationally recognised lawyer who won eight cases at the European Court of Human Rights against Swedish social services.

A country proud of its social engineering established the Swedish Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act (LVU) in 1990, which gives authority to social service workers to remove children forcibly from their parents.

Without, or even before they get the Swedish Administrative Court's support, social agencies have the right to send their staff, assisted by the police, and take children from their homes or directly from school without their parents' knowledge.

Children are taken far from home directly to a secret investigation home, foster home or a Home for Care and Custody (HVB).

The impunity enjoyed by Swedish social services has led to countless violations of the LVU, which gives legal grounds for forced child removal.

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Lena Hellblom Sjogren, a well-known Swedish forensic psychologist who has investigated alleged sexual abuse and children's suffering, said she believes that those judging in the social care cases lack reliable tools for the work that they are doing and that "their obligation according to the Swedish fundamental law to be impartial and to be a matter of fact oriented is violated in every case."

Author Erik Philipson, who chairs the group, Barnets Basta (In the Child's Best Interest), said the root cause for the failure is that social services workers in Sweden were not educated about scientific research methods "so that they can make an objective and impartial child investigation, and still they have the authority to be an expert authority on child matters and what is in a child's best interests."

Halima Marrie came to Sweden from the African country of Gambia with her husband, Almamo Jarju, and children, but after just a few months, her 6-year-old daughter was taken by social services.

Marrie claimed that, from the very beginning, the school manipulated her daughter by telling her that "they will find a better home for her as we are likely to beat her."

The young girl was moved to five different homes from when she was six to seven years old due to "sexual abuse by the foster families," said the girl's father, Almamo.

Almamo said he suspects that his daughter, now 15, "is still a victim of sexual abuse in her current foster home and the social services are not doing anything about it."

Halima and Almamo last saw their daughter "three years ago, when she was 12, as social services stopped any contact between us and we have no idea where she is," Halima asserted.

Almamo believes that his family is a victim of racism and that the only reason why his daughter was taken away from them is "because we are Muslims".

Westerberg, who is also a former medical doctor, believes that "if you are an immigrant family in Sweden, there is a larger possibility that social authorities will take your child away from you."

Asked about the protests by the Muslim families, she replied: "I mean that they are kidnapping Muslim children, and those social workers find it a lot more interesting to go and kidnap Muslim children than to sit around the whole day taking care of Swedish alcoholics and giving them money and clothes."

Swedish authorities denied allegations of kidnapping by the protesters, branding a conversation on Twitter "a disinformation campaign," adding that social services "always put the safety and well-being of the child first."

Lena Hellblom Sjogren, author of the book, "Barnets Ratt Till Familjeliv" (The Child's Right to Family Life), argues that the Swedish system is not fair to the child because "the child's rights – the human rights and legal rights and the child's needs – are violated, and if you don't have a very sound investigation that the child needs to be protected, then you can take that last step to move away a child from his or her family, but not before that."

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The well-established Persons Act LVU/ HVB-system is thought to turn over billions of dollars per year, which is believed to be 2 per cent of the Swedish state budget.

"It is a big business [in Sweden] taking away children from their mothers. It is a very big business in Sweden," said Westerberg.

She pointed out that foster homes are given too much money by the social services and that "if you get a foster child in your home, you will get 25,000 [Swedish krona (roughly $2,522)] a month, and you must not pay any tax for that."

"So lots of people who are psychopaths, who don't have any feelings for children they take let's say two or three foster children and have an income that very few people in Sweden have."

"You can have a luxury life if you have two or three children," Westerberg added.

Hellblom Sjogren agreed and thinks that "it is quite wrong that there are companies earning money from taking children in their homes. I think that it should be a last resort, and then you should recruit adults who love children, not adults who are in need of earning money."

Swedish law states that children should be placed first with someone from their family system, but according to Sjogren: "This law is not followed, and that goes with many laws in Sweden. It looks very good on the paper, but in practice, it doesn't. They don't follow the law."

Pratima Singh and her husband, David McLean-Treat, are a married Indian-American couple whose son, Richard, was taken away by social services when he was nine.

"They came with police, and social services came and took him, and they place him outside of Stockholm," said McLean-Treat.

"Well for 10 years then we did nothing but take this up with them and take it to the courts for 10 years until he was 18 years old."

"We missed him. We wanted him home with us," he added.

David and Pratima did not succeed in getting their son back.

When Richard was 18 years old, he was placed in a rehab centre by social services.

"So he had gotten into bad company and was experimenting with drugs. So when he was 18, then instead of just letting him go because LVU is finished when children are 18 years old, they put him into a program for those who have problems with drugs or alcohol.

"We will never forgive and forget what they've done to our lives."

"They are only doing this to make money. That's all," he added.

Sweden's social services are a powerful institution in the country, so much so that even in the rare case that a Swedish court sides with the family and rules against social services' decision to take the child away, under the current law, the services can override the ruling and refuse to give the child back to their parents.

"But here we have a modern law, and here we have a modern authority – the social services in Sweden – and they are creating not objective, not impartial investigations, and they are creating tragedies – awful tragedies – for children, for their parents, and unfortunately these kinds of difficulties have a tendency to go on and sort of carry the burden over generations. And it is really, really sad," said Philipson.

READ: Respect religious beliefs of Muslims, China tells Sweden

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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