Swede Who Helped Smuggle Teenage Refugee Convicted of Human Trafficking

Fredrik Onnevall says he asked himself what decision he could live with after a Syrian boy in Greece asked him to help him reunite with his cousin in Sweden.

Swedish Television (SVT) reporter Fredrik Onnevall in Malmo, Sweden.
EMIL LANGVAD/AFP

A Swedish journalist who helped smuggle a 15-year-old refugee into Sweden was convicted of human trafficking and sentenced to community service, AFP reported on Thursday.

Together with two colleagues, Fredrik Onnevall decided to help a boy who he had met in Greece in the spring of 2014 while filming a documentary about how European nationalist parties responded to the refugee crisis, according to the report.

"It took 10 to 15 minutes maybe for me to get that question into my head, and to understand what he was asking me and to make up my mind," Onnevall, 43, told AFP in January just ahead of his trial in Malmo.

The boy, who was reportedly scrawny and exhausted, told Onnevall he was alone and wanted to join his cousin in Sweden. "Everything became more clear when it came down to that very question: 'What decision will I be able to live with in the future for myself?'," he said.

The Malmo district court found him guilty, giving him a suspended sentence and ordering him to perform 75 hours of community service. It rejected his lawyers' defense that he was acting out of compassion and concern for the boy's fate, ruling that "jurisprudence leaves little scope to acquit someone for that reason." The maximum sentence in Sweden for human trafficking is two years, the report said.

Onnevall said he hoped an appeals court would overturn the ruling.

According to the report, human trafficking charges in Sweden increased eight fold in two years to 116 people in 2016, while the country tightened its refugee policy in 2015 after asylum applications soared from 80,000 in 2014 to 160,000 in 2015.