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Swedish Radio / In Ethiopia, several children from neighboring Eritrea are waiting to be reunited with their parents in Sweden.

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Thursday, 01 March 2018

Explains today's major events in Sweden and the world.

DNA testing may suffice for family reunification


Girl with braided hair
"I'm alone here, I have no siblings and no parents who take care of me," says 12-year-old Helen waiting to come to Sweden from Ethiopia. Photo: Samuel Larsson / Sveriges Radio.
Within a short while, the Migration Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to use DNA tests instead of passports in certain cases relating to family reunification. The verdict is expected to be of great importance to Eritreans on the run.
It is about Eritreans in Sweden who have their relatives in Ethiopia and who applied for family reunification. Many Eritreans are missing passports and are therefore denied family reunification in Sweden.
Ekot's correspondent has met 12-year-old Helen, who is alone in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. She has moved from Eritrea and her mother is in Sweden.
"I'm so sorry for what they decided. It's wrong. I'm alone here, I have no siblings and no parents who take care of me, says Helen who lives in a small studio apartment in the thriving multi-million city of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Helene is 12 years old and is actually called something else.
To be reunited with their family in Sweden, you must be able to show that you are related and the Migration Board often requires you to show your home country pass. But in Eritrea it is difficult to get a passport and many Eritreans who fly from the country do not have it.
You can then apply for a passport to an Eritrean Embassy but because there is no one in Ethiopia, the only way to get a passport is to illegally reach Sudan or Kenya where there are Eritrean embassies.
But this means having  to use human traffickers and at risk of abuse and kidnapping, including reports from the Swedish embassy in Ethiopia and Sudan.
Helen's mother Sauro does not want her daughter to go out on the dangerous journey and so she is now stuck in Ethiopia without adults who can take care of her. The daughter is the most person in the one-bedroom apartment she lives in, says her mother.
"All the time I tell her she will not go out.
The Swedish embassy in Ethiopia made some 680 Eritrean affiliations last year and the majority of applicants were missing according to the embassy passport. And according to the Embassy, ​​it is common for the Swedish Migration Board to require passports despite the fact that they have to make a dangerous and illegal journey.
Within a short time, the Migration Supreme Court will examine a case that will be guiding.Among other things, the court is expected to decide whether, in cases where it is difficult to obtain passports, it should be possible to do DNA tests instead.
The sentence should have been in August but has gone out on time.
The Migration Board does not want to comment on the individual case or legal situation because it is awaiting the verdict, but the Migration Board's expert Theresa Karlbjörn said to Ekot in August:
"This is a matter where we really need guidance and we hope we will get it soon and that the Migration Supreme Court will make a decision that provides clear and clear guidance on how to look at this.
12-year-old Helen, who has already been waiting for two years, finds it terrible that the judgment is on time.
"I cry every night," says Helene, so mom always tries to cheer me up and make me laugh when we talk on the phone.
Child stuck in Ethiopia awaiting a decision by the Swedish Migration Board

Woman in front of a window.

Sauro is worried about her daughter who is left alone in the capital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Even though she has received refugee status and is entitled to reunite with her daughter, it does not work because there is no honorary passport. Photo: Johanna Sjövall / Swedish Radio.
  • In Ethiopia, several children from neighboring Eritrea are waiting to be reunited with their parents in Sweden.
  • But they have gotten in a moment 22, because the Swedish Migration Board requires them to show up Eritrean passports to get to Sweden and it is almost impossible for Eritrean children to get a passport. 
  • Listen toSamuel Larsson, correspondent Ekot andJohanna Sjövall, reporter Ekot. 
"I'm so sorry for what they decided. It's wrong. I'm alone here, I have no siblings and no parents who take care of me, says Helen, when I find her in a small studio in the thriving multi-million city of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Helene is 12 years old and is actually called something else.
The room consists of three beds, a sofa and a small TV. On the walls hang the crucifix and in a corner there is a coffee pot on a glow fire.
Helene says she does nothing but sit in the apartment, watch TV and sometimes talk to her mother in Sweden on the phone. She has no friends, does not go to school even though she would like to, and when I ask why she says she does not dare to go herself, and she has no one who can follow.
- She lives herself twelve years old. She can not even cook. Could she go to another country and get a passport? No, she can not. 
My daughter can not travel to another country and get a passport. She's just twelve years old, says Sauro, what's really called something else.
She lives in a small town in the middle of Sweden and we meet in her apartment.
On the floor of her living room is a hotplate. Just like in many Eritrea homes, she brews coffee in the traditional way. She roasted the fresh coffee beans over the plate.
It has been six years since she left her only child with her sister in Eritrea. She first went to the neighboring country of Sudan and from there on to Libya and across the Mediterranean to Italy and onward through Europe to Sweden.
She says she did not want to expose her daughter to the dangerous journey but she did it to give her daughter a future.
Her husband has been dead for ten years back and she says it was difficult to support the single daughter himself in Eritrea. 
- Because I'm coming here. For my daughter. If she goes to school here she gets a good future. She says that if I finish school I will be a doctor. That's why I come here. But even now. Look. Four years have passed. 

She came to Sweden four years ago and got a permanent residence permit in the summer of 2015. At the beginning of 2016 she applied for reunification with her daughter, who then joined the capital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
But quite soon she understood that there would be a problem. Like many Eritreans, the daughter is missing passports. It is very difficult for children over five years to get a passport because it is illegal to leave Eritrea without permission from the government.
Nevertheless, the Migration Board requires that Sauro's daughter apply for a passport to an Eritrean Embassy to prove that they are related. 
Because there is no Eritrean Embassy in Ethiopia, she has to approach any of the neighboring countries of Sudan or Kenya. 
But because she has no passport - she can not cross the border legally. 

According to Sauro, one must then use refugee smugglers and the risk of being kidnapped by groups engaged in trafficking is high. 
It is also evident from reports from the Swedish embassy in Ethiopia and Sudan. Sauro does not want to hire refugee muggers, and the daughter is now stuck in Addis Ababa since two years back. 

- I live here, my body is here but my heart and my brain are with her. 
"All the time I tell her she will not go out. 
Sauro is worried about her daughter, she is afraid she'll be hurt if she goes out for herself and therefore she usually tells her daughter not to leave the apartment. 

And the daughter sits most, according to Sauro, who tells them that they usually talk on the phone several hours a day. 
- I say you have to wait, she says I can not wait, I have to be with you. 

- Do you know you miss her? 
- Yes, when she cries I cry too. When she cries, I cry too. When she cries I cry out together. 
- You stop crying together? 
- Yes, she ends and then we stop together.
The Aliens Act provides for the possibility of granting evidence if it is very difficult to obtain a passport. For example, you can get proof of their relationship through DNA tests.
However, the Swedish Migration Board believes that you must first show that you really tried to get a passport and they mean that Helen has not done so and therefore she has been refused her application for a residence permit.
The Migration Board's decision is appealed to the Migration Court, but there, Helens case has been lying for almost a year.
But the legal process is over her head, and Helene does not seem to be aware of what it's about. Her mother has not told her why it's happening, she says, but tells her how she sees other Eritrean refugees here in Addis Ababa, who travels to Europe or America, and she does not understand why she's not allowed to do the same.
Helene is shy , talking quietly and when we talk about her mother, she begins to cry several times and get together before we can go on.
"I cry every night," says Helene, so mom always tries to cheer me up and make me laugh when we talk on the phone.
But Helene is not completely alone, at least not yet. She shares an apartment with Alem, who is 22 years old and even her name is something else, and her two younger brothers.Alem and the brothers flew forced recruitment to the Eritrean army, and by chance collided with Helen during the flight to Ethiopia.
"She walked there all the way, without any adult looking after her, so we took care of her.Now we are a sibling, says Alem.
But it was almost two years ago. Then Helene was at the interview for family reunification at the Swedish Embassy here in town. But since then, she has only expected. Without friends, without school and without her mother.
"She cries every night she's going to sleep, but I've always tried to comfort her and say she'll meet her mom soon," says Alem. But I could never believe we were going to leave here first, she said - who, with her siblings, had asylum in Canada and had to leave the apartment, Addis Ababa and Helene no later than this week.
- It does not feel good. I had been much happier for my asylum if Helene had gone first.Now I'm just sad, says Alem. Helen's mother in Sweden is now trying to desperately find another adult who can take care of her daughter, but there is still no solution.
"The Swedish Migration Board does not know this girl's pain," said Alem upset. They act irresponsibly - they know she's just a child, why are they doing this?
For 12-year-old Helene, the situation has become acute in anticipation of the Swedish process, and she tells her that she is afraid of what will happen next week when Alem and her brothers move and she risks standing without adult people who take care of her .
"I just want to meet my mom," Helen said once more. But when my interpreter asks what the first thing she's gonna do when she's seen, she's cracking for a first time in a smile.
Then she'll get a hug.
Samuel Larsson, Africa correspondent 
samuel.larsson@sverigesradio.se

* Software translation*

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