At least 916 children have been abducted and taken out of Sweden in the last five years, the majority of which are understood to be honor-related abductions by family members traveling back to Islamic countries, research conducted by broadcaster SVT has revealed.
The country’s foreign ministry has only been producing statistics on how many people are abducted or unlawfully detained in another country since 2018, and since then, 1,151 cases have been recorded, 916 of which have been children.
Ia Sveger, a lawyer who spoke to the broadcaster, revealed the true figure is probably far greater, as the number of child abductions is greatly underreported due to a lack of trust by family members in the authorities’ ability to help.
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“This applies above all when abductions take place to countries that are not affiliated to the Hague Convention — so-called non-convention countries. There, the help you can get from the foreign ministry is very limited,” Ia Sveger said.
She explained that one of the main reasons for a child being unlawfully detained in another country is honor-related, where a family member may abduct their own child and take them to a more religiously conservative society in order to protect cultural or religious beliefs. These may be as a result of seemingly trivial cultural transgressions undertaken by a child in the host country, or to prevent such a transgression from taking place.
According to the research conducted by SVT on child abduction cases, 48 percent of all children abducted in an “honor” context in 2021 and 2022 were taken to Iraq and Somalia, strictly Islamic countries that adhere to Sharia customs and laws. Syria was also high on the list of recorded abduction cases.
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In the last year, the National Center Against Honor-Related Violence and Oppression in Sweden has fielded a record number of calls regarding suspicions, concerns, or alarms about abductions that take place in an honor context.
A total of 210 emergency calls about honor-related child abductions were recorded last year, the highest number since the helpline was established in 2014.
One case study was a woman named Hala whose daughter was unlawfully taken by her ex-husband back to his native country of Jordan eight years ago.
According to Hala, the father had previously said that he did not want to raise his daughter in Sweden because she would become “too Swedish” and would not be brought up religiously enough in Sweden.
The daughter was kidnapped and remained in Jordan for the next eight years, where she is now due to be wedded in an arranged marriage organized by the father.
Honor abductions are not the only honor-related crimes to affect Sweden. Honor killings and other honor-related crimes have become a major problem for Sweden in recent years due to mass immigration from “honor societies.” In an example of the violence displayed in some such cases, an Afghan man and his two sons stabbed another man 90 times to “preserve honor.”
In September 2019, the Swedish Police Authority began specifically tracking honor-related crimes, and by November 2021, 4,500 suspected honor-related crimes had been registered in the country’s database.
According to the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society, a report from 2009 showed that about 70,000 women and men said they risked being forced to marry against their will. These numbers represent a massive 6.6 percent of females and 3.5 percent of males in the 16-25 age group in Sweden.