Most people that apply for asylum in Sweden come from Afghanistan. Many of them are children and many come unaccompanied. UNHCR wanted to find out why these children flee from Afghanistan and what their journey to Sweden looked like. In June 2010 the report “Voices of Afghan Children” was released. The report consists of 42 unaccompanied Afghan children telling stories about their lives and their reality.

Why do these children seek refuge?

To be alone as a child when you leave your home country to flee to Europe is very risky. The UNHCR study reveals that there are several reasons as to why children still do it. The most prominent reasons concern difficult economic and social circumstances in a combination with lack of protection in the home country.

On the move

A child seeking refuge is always vulnerable. Many children that manage to come to Sweden suffer from traumatic experiences. They describe in the report how they have been victims of forced recruitment, child labor, ruthless exploitation, fear of abuse and violence in their home country and that these experiences still haunt them throughout their continued journeys.

Furthermore, the report demonstrates how the human rights of the Afghan children have been violated throughout their journey. Since their status is that of irregulars, they are vulnerable and exposed to criminal activity, physical exploitation and child labor. In countries such as Iran, Turkey, and Greece they are not guaranteed access neither to the territory, nor to the asylum process. The children risk being arrested and sent back to the border from where they came without agencies having assessed their need for protection or without consideration for the children’s best.

Young Afghans do not only flee to Europe, but also eastwards, especially to India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia.

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