Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Sweden

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Sweden , 1 June 2000, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


At the end of 1999, Sweden hosted about 20,200 asylum seekers and refugees in need of protection. These included 7,857 asylum seekers with pending asylum claims, 678 granted asylum, 4,373 persons granted humanitarian or other protection statuses, an estimated 5,800 persons (primarily Kosovo Albanians) with temporary protection, about 900 rejected Yugoslav asylum seekers still in need of protection, and 546 resettled refugees.

During 1999, 11,231 asylum seekers submitted applications in Sweden, 13 percent fewer than the prior year. The largest groups of asylum seekers came from Iraq (3,576), Yugoslavia (1,812), Iran (854), Bosnia (486), and the Russian Federation (449).

In 1999, Sweden granted refugee status to 678 asylum seekers (including appeals decisions) and issued 3,559 persons permission to stay on humanitarian grounds. An additional 814 persons received permanent residence permits on grounds that they were in "need of protection." The Swedish Immigration Board (SIB) rejected 5,586 cases and closed 748 cases.

In 1999, Sweden resettled 546 refugees, including 157 Iranians, 148 Iraqis, and 80 Bosnians. Sweden cut its original 1999 resettlement quota for 1,800 refugees because the authorities spent part of the resettlement budget on the humanitarian evacuation program (HEP) for Kosovo Albanians – a decision that drew widespread criticism from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. Because of the reduction, the Swedish Immigration Board canceled resettlement selection missions to Turkey and northern Iraq, forcing UNHCR to find other resettlement countries for about 400 persons, some of whom had close family members in Sweden.

Asylum Procedure

All asylum applications are submitted directly to the SIB, which is responsible for interviewing applicants and making first-instance asylum decisions. The agency can grant applicants asylum, or residence permits on humanitarian grounds. Persons deemed in "need of protection" also receive a permanent residence permit. Sweden considers persons who risk torture and/or the death penalty, have fled armed conflict or an environmental disaster, or risk persecution on the basis of gender or sexual orientation to be in need of protection. The SIB bases asylum decisions on the Aliens Act and precedent established by the Aliens Appeals Board.

In 1999, NGOs complained that SIB grants too much authority to individual asylum officers and that the officers often use arbitrary, unspecified, and inconsistent criteria to make decisions. The SIB reportedly averaged six months to issue a first instance decision in 1999.

The Aliens Appeals Board rules on SIB decisions, and can refer cases to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The SIB can refer cases directly to the ministry for guidance when the government's decision sets a precedent for deciding the cases of a large group of asylum seekers. On average, the Aliens Appeals Board took nine months to render a decision on an appeal in 1999.

In 1999, a parliamentary committee on immigration and asylum matters recommended that the government issue ordinances rather than commenting on specific cases to determine case adjudications for a particular refugee group. By year's end, the government had not implemented any policy change.

The Aliens Appeals Board issues an expulsion order along with any negative decision. If the expulsion order remains unfulfilled for four years, it expires, and the asylum seeker may again apply for a residence permit, provided that the failure to implement the expulsion order was not the asylum seeker's fault. Rejected asylum seekers may seek financial assistance from the SIB for voluntary repatriation. In 1999, 3,219 rejected asylum seekers left Sweden voluntarily. Sweden expelled 1,785 rejected asylum seekers during the year.

In 1999, Sweden launched a pilot "Return to Somalia" program to encourage Somalis with temporary protection to repatriate. When fully operational, the pilot program will allow the authorities to award 50 to 60 Somalis repatriation grants for the equivalent of $4,800 per family or $1,200 per adult to assist in the reconstruction of their communities. The project is a joint effort of the International Organization for Migration, the UN Development Program, and the Swedish government.

Assistance and Integration

Since 1994, asylum seekers have had the right to live with relatives or friends while awaiting asylum decisions. Roughly half of all asylum seekers reside in government-funded housing while their applications are processed. The government grants monthly allowances to applicants without other means of support. Asylum seekers whose asylum applications are expected to take longer than four months to process may receive work permits.

The Swedish Board of Integration – in operation since June 1998 – sponsors programs to help immigrants and refugees integrate into Sweden, including language training, job placement, and housing assistance.

Sweden passed legislation in 1998 making it easier for refugees and certain other foreign nationals to gain Swedish citizenship. The law, which came into force on January 1, 1999, waives a requirement of written proof of identity for refugees and other foreign nationals who have resided legally in Sweden for at least eight years.

Restrictive Measures

Sweden places asylum seekers arriving from "safe third countries" or "safe countries of origin" in accelerated procedures. Sweden considers Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia as safe third countries. In 1999, Sweden removed Jordan, which is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, from its list after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) repeatedly protested its designation as a safe third country.

Sweden deems asylum applicants from countries that historically have had low approval rates as "manifestly unfounded." Such cases are also placed into an accelerated procedure. Applicants rejected on safe third country and manifestly unfounded grounds may appeal their denials. To bring its policy in line with European Union (EU) resolutions, Sweden began suspending expulsion orders for applicants awaiting appeals of manifestly unfounded claims in 1999.

Sweden rejected 444 cases on safe country of origin grounds and another 2,121 additional applications on safe third country grounds during 1999.

On October 1, 1997, Sweden began implementing the Dublin Convention (see chart).

Neo-Nazi Activity

Racist violence increased dramatically in Sweden during 1999. In one well-publicized incident, "skinhead" youths attacked a prominent Jewish musician who previously fled persecution in Lithuania. The police linked several bombings to neo-nazi groups, including one that blinded a police officer. In October, the neo-nazi murder of a trade union leader prompted the Ministry of Justice to discuss banning neo nazi organizations outright.

Neo-nazi groups reportedly published a "hit-list" of potential targets on a website, including, among others, refugee and immigrant activists in their threats. In response to the escalating violence, Sweden's four largest daily newspapers jointly published a series of articles on racist violence, with the names and pictures of active neo-nazi group members.

Former Yugoslavs

Former Yugoslavs constitute one of the largest refugee populations in Sweden. An estimated 93,000 former Yugoslavs live in Sweden, arriving in waves since the 1960s, with some 50,000 Bosnians entering in the 1990s (see below). During 1999, Sweden experienced another large influx from the Balkans, primarily Kosovo Albanians, following NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia in the spring.

During 1999, 1,935 Yugoslav citizens applied for asylum. The Swedish authorities estimated that about 80 percent, some 1,500 persons, were Kosovo Albanians. Sweden granted 486 Yugoslav citizens some form of protection in 1999.

Changes to the Aliens Act in 1997 permit Sweden to establish temporary protection regimes for up to two years in situations of mass flight. In April, the Swedish parliament issued a decree granting temporary protection for Yugoslav citizens from Kosovo. The decree gave 11-month residence permits to Kosovo refugee arrivals under the humanitarian evacuation program (HEP) and to spontaneous arrivals, including asylum seekers with pending claims, which numbered approximately 3,300. Under HEP, 3,729 Kosovo Albanians arrived from Macedonia, fewer than the 5,000 persons Sweden had agreed to accept. In all, Sweden granted temporary protection to 7,016 Kosovo refugees.

In developing the temporary protection program, Sweden also announced it would apply the Dublin Convention to Yugoslavs from Kosovo arriving from other signatory states and apply the safe third country principle to those who transit via Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Sweden also tightened visa restrictions for persons arriving from Yugoslavia.

Kosovo refugees arriving after July 5, 1999 received temporary protection until April 11, 2000. The Swedish authorities also allowed them to apply for asylum in the regular procedure.

Kosovo refugees with temporary protection received work permits, medical care, and accommodation in government-run reception centers. Because their residence permits were limited to 11 months, however, they could not establish residency in a municipality (which requires at least a 12-month stay) or apply for a "personal number," which, under Swedish law, confers certain social benefits, such as non emergency medical care for adults, the right to day care, and special education for disabled children. Instead, as recipients of temporary protection, the Kosovo refugees received benefits equivalent to those of asylum seekers because they fell under the SIB's administration, rather than the local authorities purview.

After NATO troops entered Kosovo, the Swedish government developed plans to assist Kosovo Albanians wanting to repatriate. Sweden provided up to 30,000 Swedish Crowns ($3,600) per family to returning Kosovars. By year's end, 1,430 Kosovo Albanians had repatriated. The authorities allowed repatriated Kosovars to return to Sweden within the 11-month time frame allowed by their temporary residence permits.

Sweden plans to interview all remaining Kosovo refugees during the last two months of the temporary protection scheme to determine what they plan to do. Refugees interested in repatriating will receive assistance, while those wishing to stay will have to submit an application for asylum before the expiration of temporary protection.


At the end of 1999, about 50,000 Bosnians remained in Sweden under various statuses. During the year, 486 Bosnians applied for asylum, while another 522 received protection statuses on various grounds. Sweden accepted 80 Bosnians for resettlement during the year.

In 1999, Sweden assisted 82 Bosnians to repatriate voluntarily compared to the 442 in 1998. Since 1996, 1,487 Bosnians have repatriated from Sweden, according to UNHCR.

Search Refworld