Fleeing Alone, Some Migrant Kids Find Foster Homes In Sweden : Parallels Sweden took in a record number of asylum seekers last year, among them 35,000 children who arrived without their parents. The luckiest are in foster care with Swedish families.
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Fleeing Alone, Some Migrant Kids Find Foster Homes In Sweden

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Fleeing Alone, Some Migrant Kids Find Foster Homes In Sweden

Fleeing Alone, Some Migrant Kids Find Foster Homes In Sweden

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Sweden is also struggling with a massive influx of migrants. Among them are children, 35,000 unaccompanied minors who arrived in the country last year. Once they're in Sweden, each young person is assigned a legal guardian, and some have been taken into Swedish families. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has the story.

(LAUGHTER)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The home of Freia-Mai Franck and Hans Sick in the southern Swedish town of Karlshamn is very lively these days. Three months ago, this couple in their 70s, who have grown kids and grandkids of their own, took in a pair of Afghan teenagers. Freia-Mai says she was a refugee herself after World War II, when her family fled eastern Germany from the advancing Red Army.

FREIA-MAI FRANCK: That is what comes out when I see children that don't have their parents and they had to flee. Then I'm remembering what was happening to me when I was a child, and how I got hope and desire to live again.

BEARDSLEY: Freia-Mai and Hans now hope to bring joy and stability to the lives of 14 and 15-year-old Novid and Mosen, who traveled from Afghanistan to Sweden last year without their families. The boys are neatly dressed and polite, and greet visitors with shy smiles.

MOSEN: (Foreign language spoken).

NOVID: (Laughter).

BEARDSLEY: NPR isn't giving their last names to protect their privacy. Mosen's impoverished family first fled to Iran to escape the Taliban. They used the last of their money to send Mosen to Europe. Novid became separated from his family during their journey to Europe. He says there are many kids traveling alone.

NOVID: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: "But you don't stay alone," he says. "We traveled together and the older kids looked after us. We helped and protected each other from bad people like smugglers." For the first month after their arrival, Freia-Mai says Mosen and Novid just wanted to sleep and stay in bed.

FRANCK: And I recognized that they had to bring life again into their mind and into their body. They stayed in bed.

BEARDSLEY: But now the boys are in school and beginning to learn Swedish.

HANS SICK: That's a challenge, there's no doubt about it.

BEARDSLEY: Hans Sick says he and Freia-Mai felt compelled to help some of the refugees arriving in Sweden.

SICK: I cannot imagine living in a country where you have that less empathy that you just let people go. I would not live in that country.

BEARDSLEY: Hans and Freia-Mai say some of their neighbors are also thinking about fostering migrant children. But the couple have also had to warn the boys that not everyone is so willing to help. Support for Sweden's anti-immigration party is increasing, and there's growing opposition in the country to mass immigration.

Upstairs, the boys show off their bathroom and bedroom with its two single beds. On the walls is a map of Sweden and a poster of international soccer star Ronaldo. They say they chose to share a room and use what would've been a second bedroom as a sitting room where they can talk and drink tea.

MOSEN: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Mosen says everything about Sweden is good, especially that everyone is treated equally. I ask how the boys feel when they lay down in their beds at night. Novid's response makes me regret my question.

NOVID: (Through interpreter) When I go to bed and when I start thinking about my life, I remember my family, and I don't know where is them. And I feel very bad.

BEARDSLEY: Freia-Mai says despite their recent trauma, the boys are very normal, sweet teenagers.

FRANCK: Oh, they laugh, and we feel good. And they tell us what to eat and what they love to eat, and they tell us no, this is not good. And so - and then I say try a little bit (laughter) because this is Swedish.

BEARDSLEY: Freia-Mai and Hans say it's really not so difficult to have someone living in your house and making them feel safe. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Karlshamn, Sweden.

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