Adopted by the Committee: 12-30 January 2015
Published by the Committee: 4 February 2015
Ratification and policy strategy:
The Committee welcomes the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, in June 2013; Hague Convention No. 34 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, in September 2012, The National Action Plan against Trafficking, Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children for 2014 and 2015, of February 2014 (para.4,5).
The Committee is however concerned that: Certain groups of children continue to face discrimination, in particular children from disadvantaged and marginalized families as well as children of migrant families, including African and Afro-Swede children; The term “race” has been deleted in the new Anti-Discrimination Act and the Instrument of Government, and that there is no explicit legal provisions declaring illegal and prohibiting organizations promoting and inciting racial hatred, as already pointed out by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/SWE/CO/19-21, Paras. 6 and 13); There are cases of Roma children discriminated by their schoolmates; and there are cases of LGBT children experiencing bullying, intimidation and violence (para.15).
The Committee is seriously concerned about the practice of solitary confinement of children in conflict with the law in remand prisons and police cells and the high number of children in the latter, as well as about the coercive and involuntary treatments infringed on children with disabilities in mental health care settings, in particular the use of straps or belts for up to two hours, and of seclusion (para.25).
Abuse and neglect:
The Committee notes with concern that: Child victims of abuse and neglect frequently experience difficulties in accessing rehabilitation services and mental health care notably due to the lack of clarity in the care chain in large parts of the State party; and Schools and institutions personnel are not properly trained to recognize the early signs of abuse and neglect, a situation which results in only a few cases being reported to social services (para.27).
The Committee is concerned about the persistence of child prostitution and child pornography in the State party and the lack of data on sexual exploitation of children, including on children trafficked to and within the State party for sexual purposes, or sexually abused or exploited by Swedish nationals abroad (para.29).
The Committee notes with concern that school action plans in this regard, are reportedly rarely based on a survey of needs, that the number of pupils subjected to some form of harassment by other pupils is increasing, including online bullying and that private online actors are not sufficiently involved in combatting bullying and harassment online (para.31).
Children deprived of a family environment:
The Committee is however concerned that the “principle of closeness” only constitutes one factor among others to be taken into consideration, instead of being mandatory, which can lead children to travel long journeys to visit their parents, with some families not being able to undertake these journeys because of economic constraints. The Committee is also concerned that having to travel a long journey does not automatically constitute a justification to extend the duration of the visit in some prisons (para.34).
The Committee is concerned at reported instances of arbitrary interferences in the family life of Afro-Swedes and Africans and removal of children by social welfare authorities, as already pointed out by the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent after their visit to the State party (para.36).
Children with disabilities:
The Committee is concerned that children with disabilities are not systematically heard regarding issues that concern them and lack opportunities to express themselves, as highlighted by the CRPD (CRPD/C/SWE/CO/1, para. 19). The Committee is also concerned that: No separate statistics are kept on crimes against children with disabilities, and that children with disabilities are exposed to higher rates of violence than their non-disabled peers; Although the number of children having access to inclusive education is very high, the Education Act enables schools to deny a place to pupils with disabilities when this would involve ‘significant organizational or financial difficulties’, provided the municipality can offer an equal alternative; The Education Act provides that children with disabilities need to achieve the minimum knowledge requirements; and parents, as well as staff working with children with disabilities, are insufficiently informed and trained on the special needs of these (para.38).
The Committee is concerned that considerable disparities regarding physical and mental ill-health of children continue to exist between children from different economic backgrounds (para.40).
The Committee notes with concern: The significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with so-called learning or behavioural disorders, in particular Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); and the rise in the prescription of amphetamine and amphetamine-like psychostimulant drugs, mostly in form of methylphenidate, without proper consideration to their secondary effects and the addiction resulting from these drugs (para.42).
The Committee is concerned that while the rates of mental health and psychosocial disorders are high among young people, school health services are under-resourced to address them in a timely and appropriate manner and that access to school psychologists and the psychosocial support system involves a long waiting period (para.44).
Standard of living:
The Committee notes with concern that a relatively high number of children are living in poverty; While children in situations of migration are subject to economic difficulties to a greater extent than children resident in the State party, the daily allowance for asylum seeking persons remains low and has remained unchanged since 1994; Unlike general child allowance, allowance decreases for the third child of asylum seeking families and the following children; an in 2013, reportedly hundreds of children were affected by eviction, particularly because of back rent (para.46).
Asylum-seeking and refugee children:
The Committee is concerned about reported cases of asylum-seeking children sent back to their country of origin in violation of the principle of non-refoulement. The Committee furthermore notes with concern that: Unaccompanied and asylum-seeking children are at particular risk of sexual exploitation and/or abuse, with many cases of unaccompanied children disappearing every year, most of these cases being insufficiently investigated; Child-specific forms of persecution such as the risk for children of becoming the victims of forced labour, child marriage, trafficking, female genital mutilation or being recruited as a child soldier, not being explicitly contained in the Aliens Act as grounds for obtaining asylum; Children who have been placed in out-of-home care due to neglect and/or domestic violence, may be deported together with their parents in accordance with the Alien Act; The Act on Guardians for Unaccompanied Children, Section 3 which provides for the appointment of a guardian for the child “as soon as possible”, does not set any timeframe, which in some cases leads children to wait for several weeks before a guardian is appointed; Guardians are not always properly trained and not always accompanied by an interpreter when meeting the child; Reported cases of lengthy waiting periods being imposed on children until determination of their asylum claim; and Reports according to which many unaccompanied and asylum-seeking children are not provided with winter clothes, personal hygiene articles and school materials (para.48).
The Committee notes with concern that children who are considered as being “in transit” face difficulties to access education and that the rate of school dropout is higher for children with a migration background (para.50).
Children in armed conflict:
The Committee remains concerned that volunteers under the age of 18 taking part in the Total Defence-oriented youth activities of the voluntary defence organizations undertake firearms training. Furthermore, the Committee notes with concern that: Insufficient safeguards are in place to ensure that no arms are exported to countries where children are or might be recruited or used in hostilities; and mechanisms of systematic data collection on refugee, asylum seeking and migrant children who have been recruited or used in hostilities (para.52).
The Committee is concerned that the State party does not cover all the offences included in the Optional Protocol; The State party’s jurisprudence and legislation is not consistently providing adequate protection for child victims above the age of 15 (para.54).
The Committee is concerned that children deprived of their liberty are not always informed of their rights and the reasons for having restrictions imposed on them, nor afforded all fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of deprivation of liberty, such as the rights to access to a lawyer, to independent medical examination and to notify a relative or a person of their choice as already pointed out by the Committee against Torture (CAT/C/SWE/CO/6-7, para. 7); Children continue to be subjected to pre-trial detention, with insufficient efforts taken to find alternatives to detention, and that there is a lack of general and formalized routines on how to handle children in pre-trial detention, as raised in the 2013 Annual Report of the Swedish Ombudsman for Children; The length of the deprivation of liberty including pre-trial detention is not regulated by law; and there are disparities regarding access to education between different remand prisons (para.56).
Child victims and witness of crimes:
The Committee is concerned that while children who have witnessed violence and other forms of abuse in close relationships have the status of a victim of crime, they cannot have the standing of aggrieved party in the legal process, which means that they are not offered their own aggrieved party counsel, cannot be heard by the police without the permission of a guardian and face difficulties in receiving compensation. Furthermore, the Committee notes with concern that many processes which involve child victims are protracted (para.58).