Last week, Stockholm residents noticed ghostly new additions among themselves on the city’s streets. These mute figures walked down stairs, ran across sidewalks, and napped on benches without any explanation until last Friday, when UNICEF Sweden revealed its cause: to turn the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty designed to protect child rights, into official Swedish law.
Last year, about 3,500 children came to Sweden alone. That figure that has grown exponentially over the past decade — in 2004, just 388 children showed up unaccompanied. Many had witnessed traumatic events from war, poverty, and political persecution with varied personal backgrounds, but all were adapting to life without parental guidance. Upon entering the country, refugee children are placed in transitional housing, but a 2007 report suggested that with such dramatic increases in immigration — and subsequent stress on the system — steps were needed to protect the children from abuse and help them better assimilate into Swedish life.
And so UNICEF Sweden enlisted the help of Stockholm PR agency Deportivo to “cast a light” on the issue through street art displays. Many Swedes, they say, aren’t even aware of the refugees who walk among them, despite their nation’s history of support for human rights across the world. Such rights, the organization states, “apply to all children, regardless of citizenship or where they have a residence permit.”
Sweden was actually one of the first to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 — now bound to it by international law — but UNICEF suggests enforcement officials place greater importance on those regulations written in Sweden’s own books. Thus, child rights must be put there.
Viewers are encouraged to sign a petition online in a show of support. Interested parties can also follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Take a look at the eerily poignant figures below:
Images via UNICEF.