On average, almost four children disappear from asylum shelters each week without recuperating. Nevertheless, the Norwegian state continues to pursue a policy that sends children on a new escape – this time from Norway.
Who's looking when nobody misses? I wish I could say that we in Norway lived in a country that pursued a fair refugee policy. Unfortunately, it is now only severe, and also unfair to the most vulnerable in our society. The children who disappear from reception have come to Norway alone. They are without parents who can take care of them, and they lack a network in Norwegian society.
We know far too little about where the missing children get away – whether they have gone underground or become victims of human trafficking. Instead of finding out what has happened, the Norwegian authorities have developed an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude. We would never have accepted such an attitude if it was one of them our children it was talked about.
We know little about where the missing children get lost – have they gone underground or become victims of human trafficking?
Causes of disappearance. Press in 2017 released the report We can't go back. It points to temporary residence permits for single asylum-seeking children as the main reason for the disappearance of children. Since it became easier to grant such permits in the autumn of 2016, its use has exploded. In 2015, temporary residence permits were granted in just over 1% of cases processed, while that number in 2017 was over 43%. At the same time, the number of missing children increased from 56 to 206 during the same period. We also see that many more of those who disappear have temporary residence permits, while those who previously disappeared had other types of permits. Yet there is little willingness among politicians to abolish temporary permits.
We also know that children disappear from asylum centers due to poor care. Single asylum children under the age of 15 are under the care of the child welfare services, while those over the age of 15 stay at asylum reception centers. The child welfare service has completely different requirements for staffing and competence than the asylum centers, and is much better equipped to prevent the disappearance of children. We believe it is a gross discrimination to give children such different care by putting an artificial divide at 15 years. Everyone under the age of 18 is a child and is entitled to good care.
Abolish the temporary. It is time that the "out of sight, out of mind" attitude ends and that the Norwegian authorities follow up unresolved disappearances. And it is high time that temporary residence permits are abolished, all the time we know how harmful such permits are to children. Instead of being sent back on their 18 anniversary, children should be given a safe environment through a permanent residence permit in Norway. Only then will they have hope and opportunities so that they can become a resource for society and themselves in the future.