A social care worker in southern Norway has been charged with sexually abusing up to 15 refugee minors in different asylum centers between 2013 and 2016.
The man, whose identity has not been released, is “charged with violating Penal Code Section 304, which deals with sexual acts with children under 16 years of age,” Terje Kaddeberg Skaar, head of the Agder police district’s prosecution unit, told Norwegian Faedrelandsvennen, which first reported on the scandal.
“Charges apply to sexual acts against more than ten children,” Skaar added. The Faedrelandsvennen investigation revealed that at least 15 children fell victim to the suspected predator. That number has also been confirmed by VG news.
The alarm about the possible sexual abuse of children was raised in mid-January by a school which one of the victims attended. Police started to investigate the case which led them to more potential victims, police attorney Ingrid Thorsen Agder told VG news.
“They [the abuses] are associated with refugee centers or homes affiliated to refugee services,” Thorsen said.
Police say it is too early in the investigation to reveal more details about the case. After the man was arrested in mid-February, a local court on February 18 ruled that he should be placed in pre-trial detention for five weeks. His hardware, including telephones and computers, have been confiscated by police for “technical” analysis.
Police and child care workers at the Kristiansand branch of Statens Barnehus are now questioning the victims and any possible witnesses, Thorsen explained, promising to provide updates on the case. The victims’ lawyer, Anne Rita Meberg, while refusing to comment on the “severity” of abuse told the VG “the children are now cared for in the best possible way.”
The alleged molester’s lawyer, Knut Henning Larsen, said his client does not admit guilt and did not understand the charges laid against him.
The latest scandal comes on the back of a report by Pro Sentret, an Oslo-based organization, which revealed among other things that unaccompanied underage asylum seekers engaged in paid sexual activity after arriving in Norway.
“Some of them (minors) continue to exchange sex to obtain benefits when they come to Norway. Some do it to send money to the family they left behind in their home countries, while others do it to get care and adult contact; many of them do not feel they get enough in the asylum system,” Bjorg Norli, the head of Pro Sentret told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
At the peak of the European refugee crisis in 2015, some 5,480 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in Norway, 20 percent of whom were children under the age of 15. Norwegian authorities went on to honor 98 percent of those asylum petitions, according to the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs.