23 Asylum-Seeking Chinese Youths Missing In Sweden

23 asylum-seeking Chinese youths missing in Sweden

June 30, 2007

STOCKHOLM — At least 23 asylum-seeking Chinese youths have gone missing in Sweden in the past three weeks amid suspicions of human trafficking, Swedish media reported Saturday.

In the past week alone, six youngsters who arrived at Stockholm's Arlanda airport without any identity papers and who were placed in the Sigtuna municipality's refugee center have disappeared.

“I think this is a case of human trafficking. A year-and-a-half ago we had the same problem,” Sigtuna town official Bjoern Eklund told daily Dagens Nyheter.

At least 96 Chinese youths, believed to be aged between 12 and 18, have come to Sweden seeking asylum in the past few years. Of those, 90 have disappeared from the Migration Board's refugee centers.

At least 30 of the missing children have later been found by authorities in other European countries, according to news agency TT.

In June 2006, two Chinese nationals were jailed by a Swedish court for smuggling Chinese children. A 44-year-old man received a two-year sentence while a 31-year-old woman was ordered behind bars for three months.

The two were found guilty of smuggling 46 children into Sweden and Norway between February and November 2005.

The pair arranged flights and forged passports for the youngsters from Sweden to France and Italy, where police believe the children were used for forced labor.

When the children left China they were given 10,000 Swedish kronor ($1,350) and a mobile phone.

They were instructed to tell authorities that they belonged to Falungong or other movements banned in China, to apply for asylum and then escape.