Swedish Healthcare excludes undocumented migrant children

"This is not about lack of willingness among the healthcare staff, many of whom themselves are frustrated with the current situation. It is primarily about a lack of clear directives and financial responsibility from the government. All children must have equal access to healthcare, regardless of their legal status. I feel ashamed of my country when I hear how some children have been treated," said Ohlson.
Stockholm - Undocumented migrant children in Sweden do not have sufficient access to healthcare. That is the experience of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) after 15 months of referrals of 'gomda', the hidden migrants in Swedish society, to a network of volunteer health workers. Some minors are turned away by hospital staff, others do not access health services out of fear or because of the high financial charges. MSF has been running a project in the Stockholm area since 2004, offering healthcare for failed asylum-seekers and other undocumented migrants. During 2004, MSF arranged for 502 medical consultations. "Some of the children we meet have previously been refused care at a hospital due to their status while others had to pay €250 to see a doctor or up to €1,100 for surgery," explained MSF's Head of Mission, Mattias Ohlson. "In addition, many parents were too afraid to take their child to the hospital. They feared that someone would turn them into the migration authorities or the police, something which unfortunately has happened." Sweden was among the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Today, 15 years later and despite criticism from the EU Commission, the Swedish healthcare system still excludes some categories of children, arguing that they do not have the proper documents. "One of our patients (was) an 11-year-old boy was injured playing football," said Ohlson. "His mother did not dare to take him to the emergency ward. When we met him three months later, he could hardly walk. Another 1-year-old boy had problem with a testicle and needed surgery. The doctor wanted to help him, but the hospital had to charge for the surgery. Only after MSF repeatedly contacted the hospital did the boy finally get a surgical appointment." Many of the children who come to MSF suffer psychologically from the stressful and insecure situation of hiding from the authorities. Two children even attempted suicide. "This is not about lack of willingness among the healthcare staff, many of whom themselves are frustrated with the current situation. It is primarily about a lack of clear directives and financial responsibility from the government. All children must have equal access to healthcare, regardless of their legal status. I feel ashamed of my country when I hear how some children have been treated," said Ohlson.