My future counts
In 2015, more than 35,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in Sweden. Although Sweden has a long-standing tradition of guaranteeing international protection to people in need and a well-developed asylum system for unaccompanied children, the substantial number of arrivals put the system under strain. Many of the unaccompanied minors who arrived in 2015 have now turned 18. Changes in Swedish legislation and practice have created barriers that prevent many of the unaccompanied young adults from accessing the basic services and protection offered by national authorities. One of the main challenges they face is finding stable housing.
A new law regarding unaccompanied young adults has resulted in a lack of clarity about which national authority is responsible for arranging accommodation for many within this group. Subsequently, many municipalities, which are the key actors in providing care for unaccompanied minors, no longer assume responsibility for the accommodation arrangements of young adults. As a result, they often end up homeless, which increases their vulnerability and exposes them to various risks, such as human trafficking and labour exploitation.
In response to these challenges, in 2018 the Swedish Red Cross launched the project ‘My Future Counts’. It offers support to young migrants by providing housing and humanitarian assistance in cooperation with other civil society organisations. My Future Counts is implemented both at the national and local levels, with 32 Swedish Red Cross local branches currently involved.
The project is centered around safeguarding the well-being of young people from a holistic perspective, including by providing a safe place to live. “For one year, I didn´t have anywhere to live. It was really hard. I stayed with different friends every night, and on many nights, I went to bed without any food. Now it´s so nice to have somewhere to live. I can sleep calmly”, explains Hussein, one of the young people housed through the project. In addition to responding to their needs, the Swedish Red Cross staff provide a variety of services to ensure a better living situation and promote the integration of young adults in Sweden. Young people have access to recreational and educational activities, as well as to social counseling and health services. In addition, they receive assistance to find and, eventually, reunite with their missing family members. Through extended cooperation between the Swedish Red Cross and other organisations at the national, regional and local levels, the project has significantly strengthened public awareness around the significance of supporting young migrants who have turned 18. Most importantly, it has managed to have a truly positive impact on young people’s lives by mitigating some of the insecurities that they currently experience.
Amir is a 19-year-old migrant who arrived in Sweden over four years ago. He lives with other young people in accommodation facilitated through a partnership between the Swedish Red Cross and a local association. He goes to school and has applied for a study visa, but he is still waiting for the decision from the Migration Agency. Before Amir moved into his current home, he lived in a very difficult situation:
“There were three of us renting an apartment. It was empty, so we had to sleep on the floor. I had no money, so I borrowed from friends to pay my rent, but then I had nothing left for food. I survived on 10 euros for 10 days. We had a lot of bedbugs. Each night, I had to gather them up. I borrowed and borrowed money but, in the end, I had to leave. I was scared all the time. Scared that the bedbugs would crawl out of my backpack and no one would want to spend time with me.”
Luckily, he was placed in accommodation, thus avoiding another period of instability. Amir is happy and thankful for the opportunity and his mental balance has improved considerably as a result.
My future counts
Swedish Red Cross