This is a raw and desperate story. It is a story of children abused and torn from their families, victims of unprecedented violence, many of whom died by suicide. It is a story of desperate families struggling for years in vain against the justice system in a foreign country whose language they barely understand. It is the story of those who get rich from the legal trade in children in a country that needs labour and therefore foreigners, but above all wants them as if they were not from another country. This is the story of a hell called Sweden, which is in danger of becoming a child and immigration management laboratory for the whole EU.
It is a story that begins with Saleh Al Ali, who fled Syria to protect his children from war, hunger and bombs – and to give them a future. He crossed the sea in a dinghy and risked his life to reach the Sweden of his dreams, “which everyone was talking about and we were so happy because we would be safe there”. Saleh, who has refugee status in Sweden and has found work, applied for family reunification, but it was not easy, so his wife Bothaina, who was keeping their children, had to risk her life and flee in a dinghy from Turkey to Greece and then face a long train journey to Sweden.
After the summer of 2018, the family was finally reunited. The road to integration has not been easy, but both Saleh and Bothaina have done their best, despite the fact that restrictions have increased and since 2020, when the pandemic broke out, things have gotten worse for all refugees. No one talks about how difficult the integration and bureaucratic process is for those who are already struggling every day to learn a new language, new laws, a new society, new norms and a new culture, to find a job and get their children to school, with one son suffering from epilepsy and another son whose eardrums have been destroyed by the bombs, so much so that he is deaf and needs even more attention. In this struggle for survival, Saleh and Bothaina never imagined that bureaucracy would cost them a daughter – and that the other five would save them only at the last moment.
The nightmare began on 13 October 2021. In the morning, their daughter Alaa went to school after breakfast. It was the last time her parents saw her or heard her voice. Shortly afterwards, Saleh received a phone call from social services, who summoned him. At the relevant office, an official told Saleh and Bothaina that their daughter had been handed over to social services – without investigation, without notice and without any procedure. The distraught parents were simply sent home, and the next day they were told that they would come to their flat to investigate the situation of the other children. Bothaina and Saleh must decide immediately: risk losing them all, forever, with no right to future contact, or flee Sweden. As when they fled the war in Syria, Bothaina and Saleh fled in the middle of the night and packed the essentials: they hid in Turkey – a country that does not allow children to be separated from their parents, except in serious, documented cases and after a legal procedure.
The infamy of the LVU law
Gothenburg, March 2022: Hunger strike of parents whose children have been taken awayThese decisions made under the LVU law have increased significantly since the influx of refugees into Sweden has increased. LVU states that decisions on childcare should no longer be left to experts but to a committee of politicians within each local council. Are they trained to make such responsible decisions? No, they are not. I challenge anyone to argue that politicians of different political views, and not just right-wing ones, are objective and impartial on the issue of immigration. Not only that, but city councillors are too busy voting on every single decision, which changes the lives of who knows how many people, without even having time to look at it all – because there is no time for that and because these decisions have to be made in a single day.
They don’t even have an idea of the people whose fate they are deciding. They have to rely on the secretaries and their judgement. In Saleh’s case, I was immediately personally involved in the process. Once the social welfare council has made a decision on the basis of the LVU, you can go to the administrative court to have the decision suspended, then appeal and, if it is upheld, have the option of going back to the administrative court and trying to overturn the decision. These are very difficult things for families who have just come out of the war and are still learning Swedish.
I came into the case as an interpreter for Saleh, who went back to Sweden to try to get his daughter back. The custody decision was made on the basis of an investigation based on the opinions of the social services, but when we ask for a copy, the social services first deny that it exists and then try very hard not to show it. When they are finally forced to give us a copy, we discover a devastating reality: the social services have hidden basic facts from the municipal council and the first administrative court, so that Aala’s custody has been established by fraud and on the basis of falsehoods.
The first piece of information: Alaa is said to have written a letter to her teacher in perfect Swedish asking for help, because (according to Aala) at home she is forced to clean all day, until late at night, then she puts all her siblings to bed and only then does she have time to do her homework. She is not allowed to go out with her friends and is constantly beaten by her mother. Alaa is only 12 years old, she has a 14 year old sister and a 15 year old brother, and (according to the letter) she cannot stand this situation anymore, she feels that her family does not love and respect her. It turns out that Alaa, after being taken in by the social services and placed in a family home, cries all the time, asks to go home and needs an interpreter because her Swedish is not very good and she cannot express herself. There was no interpreter present at the time of placement – which in itself invalidates the placement. How could he have written that letter?
In the presence of an interpreter, Alaa says that the day before the placement she was playing with her friends, that she lost the game and that the other children, in order to punish her, wrote a letter in her name and gave it to the teacher. Alaa cries and says that what the letter says is not true and that she wants to go home. Alaa tells the interpreter that she is fine at home, that her family loves her and that she has friends. I participate in an interview with Alaa’s friends conducted by the social services. They confirm that every day they go home together after school and play in the garden or the yard. Every day. They say they have never seen Alaa sad or angry, they have never seen Bothaina angry, and they say her mother is very kind and cooks for them – they talk about how they used to make muffins together at Alaa’s house.
Gothenburg, March 2022: Hunger strike of parents whose children have been taken away
Alaa also tells her lawyer and continues to tell social services, but the officials tell the girl that her family has moved to Turkey and abandoned her. They do not tell her that her father has come back for her. We tried all legal means to at least get a phone call with Alaa, but to no avail. The girl’s parents have written a letter for her, but the social services refuse to deliver it. We read in the newspapers that Alaa is missed by her family, that she is not well and that she has started to cut herself with sharp objects on her arms. We manage to get a new decision from the administrative court, based on the fact that the detention was carried out in the absence of a serious investigation, due to incomplete information, and that the evidence in defence of Alaa’s will was also hidden. Despite this, the administrative court ruled in favour of social services and confirmed LVU custody.
On 31 March 2022, there is a new court trial for Saleh and we know what the verdict will be even before it is pronounced: “the court’s decision does not change the decision of the administrative court and chooses to respect its decision”. According to the IVO (Health and Social Welfare Inspectorate), only 2% of the appeals result in a reversal of the original decision. According to IVO investigations, in 67% of decisions, social services’ decisions are wrong and investigations are inadequate and deficient. What is IVO? Established in 2013, it is an authority under the National Health and Welfare Council that oversees the licensing of private care institutions and the supervision of care. The IVO receives complaints from children and parents and is a supervisory authority that ensures that social services and social welfare commissions do their job properly.
The IVO scandal
IVO is the licensing authority for privatised children’s homes (HVB) that mainly take in orphans or children whose parents are unable to care for their children. It is the same authority that inspects the various establishments and checks the complaints of children and parents. Does the IVO therefore investigate all complaints received? No, certainly not. For the IVO to open an investigation, you need a lot of evidence against the HVBs, and unless you are extremely well prepared, familiar with the Swedish language and legislation, and have a good lawyer to help you, your application will be flawed and rejected.
When IVO decides to investigate the case, it asks the social services to send the documents relating to the specific case and then examines them. In other words, social services generally only investigate when you can get IVO to act. An important thing to remember: if there has been a recent investigation into a particular social welfare office and there are new complaints, a new investigation is not opened until the previous one is closed: every single office in the country is a huge bottleneck, throttling hopes of justice for parents who file complaints.
What has to happen for the IVO to decide to revoke the licence of an HVB home? Even if the IVO inspected the HVB home and found clear evidence of child abuse, sexual abuse, and distribution of drugs and alcohol, the IVO does not close the facility. In order to close it, it must be demonstrated that there is an immediate danger to the lives of children. The same criterion should be applied when deciding to remove a child from the family – it should be a last resort, when the child is in immediate danger, as stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it is monstrous that this law defends a private company that takes in a child, but not its biological parents. It is worrying how tolerant the Swedish authorities are of violence, sexual abuse, mistreatment and threats – but if a parent does not meet the upbringing criteria set by the state, they take the child away from him or her, immediately.
IVO also participates in various international networks and is involved in several EU projects. IVO cannot change the decision of an authority: if IVO believes that social services have made a wrong decision, IVO can only criticise it and social services can continue without being disturbed. At least, you can use your criticism as evidence in court. Who are the researchers working in IVO? They are social workers who must demonstrate several years of practical experience before applying. However, it happens that social workers who have been dismissed for misconduct apply for jobs at the IVO: let’s say they receive a complaint about one of their former colleagues, how can we expect professionalism and common sense?
On 22 February 2022, the Swedish news reported on corruption within IVO, after analysing suspicions raised by the fact that its officials had hidden information about serious abuse in a residential care home for girls in Dalsland for seven years: despite the fact that around 30 girls had testified about abuse and mistreatment, IVO took no action. According to the independent investigation, conducted by an audit firm, the entire IVO structure is at high risk of corruption, irregularities and inadequate law enforcement.
Gothenburg, March 2022: Hunger strike of parents whose children have been taken away
According to the results of a review of IVO’s work, it seems that children who have been taken into care by social services are criminals who should be imprisoned, and not children who need protection. When IVO works well, the results are equally alarming: in a review of social services in 50 municipalities, all 50 showed serious irregularities in the care of children. These were children who had been abused in the family home, who had been sexually assaulted and who had been unjustly removed from their biological families.
Social services are guilty of all this. They do not effectively monitor family homes and HVB homes, they refuse to listen to children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was created to protect children from their parents, but it does not cover abuse and maltreatment by the authorities. Parents watch helplessly as their children run away from these places and return home – reporting rape or other sexual abuse, and parents can do nothing to protect their children: they are forced to call social services and return the child to them, who will be taken to the same place and subjected to further abuse. If they don’t, they go to prison.
The parents have only a few years of trial left to overturn the decision made by the state in a matter of minutes and without due process. If the parents manage to prove that there is no lack of ‘parental capacity’, a new process begins: during the years of separation, the parents have lost contact and familiarity with the child, so the child is almost never returned to the family. The only way to avoid this is to maintain contact with the children even while they are in care – but this is decided by the social services, who can prohibit contact without having to justify their decision. It is a dead end.
Another curious thing is the attitude of the various states towards the child. They claim that the parents are harmful, but then they put the child in a family that the child knows nothing about, and when the child spends whole days crying in despair and self-inflicting wounds, nobody does anything – they are treated like small children. For this reason, most children are placed several times. If one day the parents win the case, the child’s life will be irreparably ruined by this trauma, and so many years will have passed that there will be a real rift between parents and children.
The political planning behind this system
Syrian refugee children picked up by social service officials and illegally taken away from their families
There is a study prepared by Staffan Höjer, Andreas Liljegren and Torbjörn Forkby of the Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg which is based on the principle that it is necessary to find seemingly humanitarian justifications for the most inhuman decisions delegated to public administration. The Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees that every child has the right to have a mother and a father and that every child has the right to see his or her parents. To deny this right, one has to prove that the parents are dangerous for the child’s safety – proving is more than affirming. The study of the three bureaucrats in Gothenburg is very interesting to read and helps to understand the political and social dynamics behind the LVU law. The first thing that emerges is that decisions are made not on the basis of evidence, but on the basis of a simple statement by an official, which does not have to meet any criteria of objectivity and impartiality.
It should not be forgotten that the opinion writer is a politician and is influenced by his party’s political position and ideology. However, the LVU law contravenes Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence; everyone is entitled to the protection of the law against such interference or attack’. Article 16 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states: ‘No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family or home; the child is entitled to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. Chapter 1, paragraph 9 of the Swedish Constitution states: “Courts, administrative authorities and others performing public administrative functions shall, in their activities, take into account the equality of all before the law and observe objectivity and impartiality.”
But if the decision-maker is not an independent judge but a politician, all this becomes a chimera. According to a 2015 study by a research group at the Gothenburg School of Economics, which analysed 950 verdicts in the Gothenburg District Court between 2009 and 2012, the probability of a person with an Arabic-sounding name being convicted by a jury of democratic Swedes increases by 17%. If the jury consists mainly of members of the left-wing party, the probability of a conviction increases by 14% if the victim is a woman. Another study from the same year (a doctoral thesis from Uppsala University) shows that also in migration courts, political affiliation had a great impact on the court’s decision.
This shows that there is a completely random factor in court decisions that the asylum seeker cannot influence. If he is lucky and there are, for example, Green Party members on the jury, his chances increase by 4%. This does not change the fact that it is a lottery until we have a procedure based solely on proven facts.
The massacre of the innocents
Protest poster of Swedish mothers whose children were taken away
Unfortunately, Saleh is not the only one who has been harmed by this system: there are thousands of Salehs I could write about, but his story is a tragic example of how the human rights of families and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are violated every day in Sweden. In all the encounters I had as an interpreter, all the placed children wanted only one thing: to go home to their mother and father.
A few days ago, Lisa, a 15-year-old girl, chose to commit suicide and left the following message: “My suicide should be in the newspaper, so that the social services will be ashamed to take the life of a child – because it is the social services that have ruined my life”. Terrible. But she is not the first child to take her own life in the foster care process, nor will she be the last, as long as the Swedish authorities systematically violate children’s rights. Because these children have no other voice, they cannot be heard by the courts, they are ignored by social services. Most of them have been taken in by innocent parents who have jobs, do not consume alcohol or drugs and do not commit crimes.
This is how thousands of children are taken into care in Sweden every year. A figure that suggests that the country is full of willing and loving people. There are certainly such people. But don’t forget that the state pays these families, or the private HVB homes, between 2,000 and 4,000 euros per month per child – and that foster families generally take in more than one child. The amount increases if the child has physical or mental problems – and that means HVB homes have an income of millions.
Between 2017 and 2019, HVB companies made a net profit of at least 25% of their turnover. HVB Platea in Värmland, as well as the owners of HVB Mölnbacka Ungdomshem, made a record net profit of SEK 14 million against a turnover of SEK 63 million – 22% of their turnover. Isn’t it strange that municipalities pay so much money to private companies instead of investing in child protection themselves, as is the case in almost all other Western countries? Why does the law allow people with no professional qualifications to judge? Why does it allow employees who have already been convicted of abuse and maltreatment to continue working in these facilities?
The effects are devastating. As in the case of John Walters, five years old, who cost 2,200 euros a day because he needed special care and who escaped – at only five years old – to die by drowning on 15 June 2021; or as in the case of Donia Hassan, who died of neglect in a family that received 3,600 euros a month for her maintenance and who has other children in care, despite this terrible death. Or Josefin, who was taken away from her family when she was four years old, placed five times until she was nine, then seven times in four months, and then ran away again and again, so that at 13 she can say she has been placed 21 times in 21 different cities. The newspapers described her as ‘the most dangerous girl in Sweden’. Arrested, locked up in a reformatory in Eskilstuna. On 2 September 2017, she escapes and hangs herself on a tree. Josefine was moved 33 times in total. One of many children who, after a failed suicide attempt, keep trying until they succeed – because no one cares about them. Some of those we have dealt with have almost 30 attempts behind them, because they have lost hope of returning to their mum and dad.
April 2022: Far-right demonstrations in major Swedish cities against immigrants
If a child really needs to be placed, the guidelines of the National Board of Health and Welfare and the social services manual state that the child should be placed with a relative or family friend. But since studies approved by Swedish politicians have shown that this solution is viewed with scepticism, even though there are studies showing that the guidelines are effective, they are not applied. The obvious aim of the LVU law is to ‘Swedishise’ foreign children.
We are witnessing tragedies with children of foreign origin who do not speak the language, children in newly arrived families who, after a few months of separation, need an interpreter to talk to their child, who has meanwhile integrated to some extent. Often the child’s name and surname are changed without the parents’ consent. The rules of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantee every child the right to preserve his or her identity, name, language and culture, are pragmatically ignored.
A child who comes from war and arrives in a completely foreign country adapts and puts down roots slowly but surely – faster than his or her parents. If the children stay in the family, they help the parents to integrate. And it is the family that gives the child the sense of protection needed to face the new world. You cannot take a child out of its context and then prevent it from growing up with serious injuries. We are integrating a new generation that is growing up in pieces. These children will never be able to live normally again. They are scarred for life. They no longer know who they are, and when they are released at the age of 18, they have completely lost contact with their biological family and look at their original parents as if they came from Mars.
These children are no longer needed because no one pays for them. They are thrown out onto the streets. They often end up in prison, taking drugs or committing suicide. This is where our daily work begins. Enough is enough, more and more parents (even among Swedes affected by the LVU law) are on hunger strike – in Stockholm the first ones fasted for fourteen days, first in front of the Riksdag, then they were evicted and moved to Sergels torg, not far from the Riksdag – and so far no politician has felt obliged to meet them. I went there. I met in person the president of the Iraqi association Al Haj Ammar, Sajida Kareem, a political activist, and Sofia Palm, a mother affected by the LVU law. I met Mats Wiking, a member of parliament. He couldn’t promise to do anything, but he listened to what we had to say. We presented a list of demands and we are waiting to see what will happen, if there will be any reaction. The only thing they said is that ours is just a disinformation campaign by Muslim terrorists and radicals. Welcome to Sweden, welcome to our nightmare.
After the 16th day of their hunger strike, these parents were forcibly removed from the site, without having broken the rules of order and despite the fact that the police had previously announced that they had every right to sit down. The next day it became known that Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Crown Princess Victoria would visit the same place where these parents were on strike for a memorial service.
April 2022: Far-right demonstrations in major Swedish cities against immigrants
It’s an election year in Sweden and parties are taking advantage of the situation and setting immigrants and Swedes against each other to get more votes. Last week, Sweden was rocked by violent reactions after Rasmus Paludan received permission to burn the Koran in several cities in Sweden during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Dan Park and Rasmus Paludan also received permission together to burn the Koran in Malmö. Dan Park was previously accused of incitement against Jews when he hung metal cans outside their synagogue with the text “Zyklon B poison gas”. Rasmus Paludan is the leader of the far-right Stram Kurs party, which was founded in Denmark in 2017 and Rasmus himself is a resident of Denmark.
Rasmus Paludan is blacklisted by many countries. He was expelled by French police on the grounds of threat to national security and Germany put him on a flight back to Denmark on suspicion of preparing riots. Violent riots in Sweden led to the arrest or detention of at least 40 people, many of them under 18 years old. 20 police cars were damaged or destroyed. Shop windows were smashed, fires set and stones thrown. 14 people were injured, three of them by police bullets. Another politician, Ebba Busch of the Christian Democrats, has a different view of the situation and said: ‘Why didn’t the police shoot? Why don’t we have at least 100 wounded Islamists?”
Would the police shoot 15-year-olds to quell this riot? Many of those present were under 18. Politicians continue to further distort the picture and say that the same extremists and radicals are behind this campaign against Sweden and in favour of burning the Koran. But were they the ones who gave Rasmus Paludan permission to go on tour in Sweden and burn the Koran, or was it the Swedish authorities who gave the permission? Let’s not forget the LVU issue, the social services are busy identifying which children participated in the counter-demonstrations and have already arrived at 9 alert notifications to put LVUs and remove those children from their families and put them around Sweden in different institutions.
As usual in Sweden all those who participate in peaceful demonstrations receive reprisals and threats from the social services and talk about Rasmus Paludan having the right to use his freedom of speech while the rest of the population is punished without trial. What freedom of expression is to be protected? Or is it only the freedom of expression of politicians that needs to be protected? How is Sweden different from dictatorial countries?
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