Despite preventive efforts by the government, prostitution in Sweden is becoming increasingly organized as more foreign-born women and men are lured or forced to sell sex. Recently, this bitter trend expanded to include refugee children.
Fifteen children, currently housed at various asylum accommodations in Malmö, are believed to have been abused by buyers of sex. The staff has admittedly tried to stop the sex trade, but the police failed to properly investigate the events because of prioritizing other issues, Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reported.
The children disappear from the accommodation in the evening and return later with valuables. The staff at the asylum accommodation, situated in the immigrant-heavy district of Rosengård, believe they are being coerced into prostitution. The children were allegedly caught up on arrival in Sweden by pimps who supplied them with mobile phones.
“Afterwards, the children received strange calls at the accommodation. That was how they got in touch with customers. Then they started sneaking out and came back a few hours later with valuables,” Kristina Rosén, Project Manager of the accommodation, told Sydsvenskan.
The staff do not know who exactly exploited the children for the sex trade, but have repeatedly seen adults contact the children outside the asylum accommodation.
“It happens all the time. The children are being picked up by different men at strange times outside the accommodation,” Lisa Green, coordinator against human trafficking in Sweden’s southernmost province of Scania, told Sydsvenskan.
Whereas the police failed to prioritize child abuse due lack of personnel, the staff tried to take the matter into own hands in cooperation with the City of Malmö and the Scania County Administrative Board. Half of the children deemed as “vulnerable” were placed in sheltered accommodation.
Most recently, accommodation staff put extra efforts into protecting a 14-year-old girl from Morocco, who was allegedly trafficked into Sweden for sexual purposes.
“We were following her like a tail, so that she would not be abused again,” Kristina Rosén told Sydsvenskan.
In May, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that the police suspected that unaccompanied children were exploited by sex buyers even in Stockholm.
“They have nowhere to go and no money. Prostitution is a last resort,” police officer Christian Frödén told Svenska Dagbladet.
Last year, the Administrative Board of Stockholm County established 210 cases where children were thought to have been exposed to human trafficking, with half of the cases involving sexual exploitation. Last year was also a record year for Sweden as regards to the number of unaccompanied children. No less than 30,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in the country, which was the highest figure in the EU. Some of them later proved to have provided false age information.
Prostitution laws in Sweden make it illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. Pimping and operating a brothel are also illegal. The criminalization of the purchase, but not selling, of sex was unique when first enacted in 1999, but has since been mimicked by Norway, Iceland, Canada and Northern Ireland.
Sweden raised the prison sentence for purchasing sex in 2011, but the tightening ultimately failed to have any impact, as government investigators pointed out recently, advocating stricter penalties for, above all, sexual abuse of children.