Sweden’s Apathetic Refugee Children

The next day, a doctor inserted a feeding tube through Georgi’s nostril. “He showed no resistance,” Soslan said. “Nothing.” Georgi was given a diagnosis of uppgivenhetssyndrom, or resignation syndrome, an illness that is said to exist only in Sweden, and only among refugees. The patients have no underlying physical or neurological disease, but they seem to have lost the will to live. The Swedish refer to them as de apatiska, the apathetic. “I think it is a form of protection, this coma they are in,” Hultcrantz said. “They are like Snow White. They just fall away from the world.”

—From: “The Apathetic” by Rachel Aviv

I read this article in The New Yorker over my morning coffee, and it blew me away so much I had to share. One of those stories that seems so fantastical it can’t possibly be true. But it is — and it’s not new, either.

I don’t have much to add, but you should read the article. It’s incredibly interesting.

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11 thoughts on “Sweden’s Apathetic Refugee Children

  1. I’ve lived there myself and can vouch that the pressure for complete social assimilation is impossible for these families. These kids are the victims of an over idealization of saving refugees from war by bringing them to one of the least open societies that exists. It’s almost unbelievable for people unfamiliar with the tight knit Nordic cultures.

  2. Terribly sad. I am in the midst of writing a story about a Syrian family I met while volunteering in the informal settlement camps in Lebanon. I was interviewing a family about the little business they set up in the camp to support their family and in the interview discovered they had sent some of their children on the refugee route with smugglers in the fall of 2015. Three young boys made it to Sweden – one only five years old, crying for his mother. The children are in the care of a Swedish family and going to school while the parents two young siblings are stuck in Lebanon. Sweden does not do family reunification from Lebanon.

  3. This has an Orwellian ring to it: the use of language to label a condition caused by other humans to legitimate and thus explain away the condition. These people are no longer oppressed victims of war, just apathetic.

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