Popular protests have sprung up across Sweden against forcibly returning people, including unaccompanied minors, to Afghanistan. Anna Benedictsson from Destination Unknown campaign member One Third gives us the rundown

For over a week now, a large group of Afghan boys and girls have camped in Stockholm’s main square – directly in front of the Swedish parliament.

They have formed a ‘sit-in’ to protest against people being forcibly returned to Afghanistan because of the perilous security situation in the country. They say that they and other Afghans in Sweden have a chance to build a safe life without violence and conflict, and don’t want that chance to be taken away.

These young people are also taking their message to the media. Fatemeh Khavari, spokesperson for the Young in Sweden (Ung i Sverige) network organising the demonstration, told reporters in a press conference that the Swedish government was humiliating Afghans – even though Afghan refugees want to make Sweden stronger.

Many of the young Afghan people involved in the protest and those living across Sweden say they feel alone, afraid and in need of support. Having visited the sit-in myself, I know that the young people in the square speak Swedish and have been in Sweden for months. They have gone to school. They have made Swedish friends. Some have Swedish family. These friends and family are also fighting to stop young Afghans being forcibly returned to a country in turmoil.

Since Sunday (13 August), young people from all over Sweden have travelled to Stockholm to participate in the demonstration, and as the group grew larger they had to move to a bigger square to fit everyone in. Hundreds marched from one square to another, and the protesters now spend their days and nights camping out with people bringing food, drinks, blankets and rain coats in solidarity.

People are sitting down to chat with these young people in order to understand the situation they are in. As you pass one of the largest squares in Sweden’s biggest city you cannot miss it – hundreds of youths with big banners covering the stairs of the aptly-named Citizen’s Square, or Medborgarplatsen. One of the banners boldly states ‘Jag vill leva’ – I want to live.

The young demonstrators say they will sit there until politicians do the responsible thing and let them stay in Sweden rather then send them back to danger in Afghanistan.

In 2015, almost 36,000 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in Sweden. The largest group were young boys and young men from Afghanistan – many from the Hazara minority. Most are still waiting for a decision on whether they can stay here or not – the stress of which has caused several young people waiting to attempt suicide this year, three of them succeeding.

As the conflicts in Afghanistan only seem to escalate, the question is for how long Sweden will continue to deport young people to a very dangerous future in the country.

Many people are predicting these deportations will become something Sweden will be very ashamed of in the future. When talking to the young Afghans in this Stockholm square, I am feeling that shame already.

Anna Benedictsson is a Board Member of One Third, an association raising the voices of young people on migration and development issues in Sweden

  • The Destination Unknown campaign demands that measures taken by States to manage migration respect the rights of children on the move as defined in human rights, refugee and international law. This includes abiding by the principle of ‘non-refoulement’, which forbids countries from returning people to places where they are at risk of death, torture or abuse.
  • You can read the Destination Unknown campaign’s nine principles for protecting children on the move and other children affected by migration here.
  • To read more about Destination Campaign coordinator Terre des Hommes’ concerns on a recent deal between the EU and Afghanistan on migration issues, click here.
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