United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Sweden, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bc52.html [accessed 9 December 2013]
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At the end of 1997, Sweden hosted nearly 8,400 asylum seekers and refugees in need of protection. These included 5,812 asylum seekers with pending claims, 1,310 persons granted asylum during the year, 70 Bosnians with temporary protection, and 1,180 refugees resettled during the year. During 1997, asylum seekers in Sweden submitted applications representing 9,662 persons, a 68 percent increase from the 5,753 persons who applied in 1996. By country of origin, the largest groups of asylum seekers during the year were from Iraq (3,057), Yugoslavia (2,115), Bosnia (742), Somalia (364), and Iran (356). Some 58,000 Bosnians remained in Sweden with permanent residence permits at the end of 1997. During 1997, Sweden issued first-instance decisions on the applications of 9,869 persons, granting 4,719 (about 48 percent) some form of protection. Sweden rejected the cases of 5,150 applicants, and referred the cases of 134 others to the Aliens Appeals Board. The cases of 764 other applicants were administratively closed during the year for non-appearance. Including decisions issued on appeals cases, Sweden granted Convention refugee status to 1,310 applicants, a more than nine-fold increase over the 128 cases in 1996, reflecting the expansion of the refugee definition in Swedish law in 1997. Sweden also granted 6,367 persons permission to remain on humanitarian grounds and issued permanent residence permits to 739 persons, based on three new grounds in the 1997 asylum amendment legislation. Of these, 629 received residence permits because of a risk of death penalty or torture and 62 because of conflict or a natural disaster. During 1997, Sweden approved 1,180 persons for admission under its refugee "quota." These included 686 persons from Iran, 330 from Iraq, and 109 from Bosnia. Asylum Law Amendments Several important amendments to the Aliens Act came into force in Sweden on January 1, 1997. The provisions eliminated the granting of asylum to de facto refugees and those fleeing for "political or humanitarian" reasons, such as flight from armed conflict. However, the amendments also expanded the definition of a refugee to apply "irrespective of whether national authorities are agents of persecution or they are deemed unable to provide protection against persecution by non-official agents," confirming that abuses by non-state agents may constitute persecution. The amendments also added three categories of persons in need of protection who will receive residence permits in Sweden: persons who risk persecution because of their gender or sexual preference; persons who have a well-founded fear of being punished by the death penalty or being subjected to torture or other kinds of inhumane, degrading treatment; and persons who need protection from an external or internal armed conflict or "environmental catastrophe." In July 1997, having been displaced by flooding, 25 Polish Roma (gypsies) applied for asylum in Sweden under the new amendment on environmental disasters. However, Sweden rejected their cases, reportedly because it did not consider the geographically limited flood as an "environmental catastrophe." Asylum Procedure Beginning on January 1, all asylum applications, whether submitted at border points or within the country, are handed directly to the Swedish Immigration Board (SIV), which has exclusive responsibility for interviewing applicants. The SIV then investigates asylum claims and issues first-instance asylum decisions based on the Aliens Act and precedent established by the Aliens Appeals Board. The January 1 amendments allowed for an increased use of personal interviews with applicants in both first- and second-instance procedures. Applicants may appeal negative SIV decisions within three weeks of notification. The Aliens Appeals Board rules on appeals of SIV's decisions, and also can refer cases to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for further direction. About half of Sweden's asylum seekers live in government-funded residence centers while their applications are processed. The government gives monthly allowances to asylum seekers without their own means, and issues work permits to those whose applications are expected to take more than four months to process. Restrictive Measures Sweden places applicants arriving from "safe third countries" into accelerated procedures. In deciding whether a third country is safe, Sweden does not necessarily consider whether that country has an asylum determination procedure. Sweden also places into accelerated procedures applicants who originate from countries that historically have had low approval rates, deeming their claims to be "manifestly unfounded." Negative decisions on safe third country and manifestly unfounded cases may be appealed, but appeals do not suspend deportation. During 1997, Sweden rejected the applications of 570 persons as manifestly unfounded and 852 others on safe third country grounds. These rejections accounted for 27.6 percent of all first-instance rejections during 1997. The Dublin Convention, to which Sweden is a party, came into force in October 1997. The convention establishes a burden-sharing arrangement whereby a single member state is deemed responsible for examining an asylum seeker's claim. By year's end, Sweden had applied the convention in about 100 cases, mostly requesting information from another EU state or requesting that it take back an asylum seeker. In 15 cases, Sweden asked Germany to take back applicants for adjudication. By year's end, Germany had accepted nine of the 15. In December, Sweden and Denmark signed a bilateral agreement on the implementation of the Dublin Convention aimed at speeding up the transfer of responsibility for asylum seekers who apply at a port of entry and require examination by one of the two countries. Former Yugoslavs According to UNHCR, more than 59,000 Bosnians remained in Sweden under various statuses at the end of 1997. These included more than 58,000 with residence permits that provided a durable solution, 167 of which were issued in 1997. More than 700 Bosnians were awaiting first-instance decisions on their asylum claims, while about 300 had cases pending at the Appeals Board. Some 70 Bosnians had temporary protection. During 1997, nearly 1,000 Bosnians repatriated voluntarily with financial assistance from the Swedish government. Bosnians have six months to prepare for voluntary return if their case is turned down on appeal. (On January 16, 1998, Sweden signed a readmission agreement with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The agreement was scheduled to go into effect in February, pending ratification by Yugoslavia's parliament.)