Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Sweden

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Sweden , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
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 2001, Sweden hosted nearly 18,500 refugees and asylum seekers. These included almost 16,000 asylum seekers with pending claims, about 300 persons granted asylum during the year, about 1,100 persons granted residence on protection grounds, about 1,100 refugees resettled from overseas, and 30 persons with temporary protected status.

During the year, 23,515 persons applied for asylum in Sweden, 44 percent more than the previous year. The largest groups came from Iraq (6,205), Yugoslavia (3,102), and Bosnia (2,775). Others came from Iran, Russia, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Belarus. Some 538 asylum seekers were stateless.

The Swedish Migration Board, the first-instance decision-making authority, issued nearly 18,400 asylum decisions during the year. Of those, the board recognized 307 persons (less than 2 percent) as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention, while granting residence permits to another 815 persons (4 percent) on protection grounds and to 5,730 persons (31 percent) on humanitarian grounds. The board rejected any form of protection for 11,500 persons (63 percent).

At the appeals level, the Alien Appeals Board (AAB) made decisions on the asylum claims of 7,086 persons, granting about 1,200 some form of residence. A majority of these residence permits were granted on humanitarian grounds; about one quarter (300) were granted on protection grounds. The appeals board rejected about 7,500 applications.

In November, the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) proposed legislation to abolish the AAB and transfer the right to review to the administrative courts. The parliament will decide the fate of the AAB mid-year 2002 and any changes will be implemented by 2004.

In March 2001, when Sweden implemented the Schengen Convention (see box, p. 190), the Migration Board advised the government that it would need to increase police surveillance of aliens in border areas with other Schengen countries. The board suggested that the quick identification of genuine asylum seekers would prevent the abuse of the right to asylum and reduce the risk of asylum seekers being exploited.

Asylum Procedure

All asylum applications are submitted directly to the Migration Board. Negative first-instance decisions may be appealed to the AAB, which may refer cases to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Migration Board may refer cases directly to the ministry when the government's decision sets a precedent for a large group of asylum seekers. Under proposed legislation, review of asylum cases will be transferred to the administrative courts.

The AAB issues an expulsion order along with any negative decision. If the expulsion order remains unfulfilled for four years, it expires. The asylum seeker may again apply for a residence permit if the failure to implement the expulsion order was not the asylum seeker's fault. Rejected asylum seekers may request financial assistance from the Migration Board for voluntary repatriation.

The Aliens Act defines persons "in need of protection" as those with a well-founded fear of torture or other inhuman treatment or punishment, including the death penalty; those who cannot return to their country of origin because of an environmental disaster or armed conflict; or those with a well-founded fear of persecution because of their gender or homosexuality. (The Aliens Act does not permit decision makers to consider gender as a social group for the purposes of granting asylum under the UN Refugee Convention; however, Sweden has initiated a process to review the handling of gender-based asylum claims.)

The Aliens Act does not define "humanitarian grounds," other than to say that a residence permit may be issued to someone who, for humanitarian reasons, should be allowed to settle in Sweden. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), persons who have been granted residence on humanitarian grounds include those with strong links to Sweden, persons who are old or infirm, and unaccompanied children. The U.S. Committee for Refugees does not count such persons as refugees or asylum seekers in Sweden.

Sweden places asylum seekers arriving from "safe third countries" or "safe countries of origin" in accelerated procedures. Sweden considers Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, and the Slovak Republic to be safe third countries.

Sweden deems asylum applicants from countries that historically have had low approval rates in Sweden 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 resolutions, Sweden began suspending expulsion orders for applicants awaiting appeals of manifestly unfounded claims in 1999.

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 allowances to applicants without other means of support. Asylum seekers whose applications are expected to take longer than four months to process may receive work permits. School-age children are given the opportunity to attend school.

The Swedish Board of Integration sponsors language training, job placement, and housing programs.

Temporary Protection

During 2001, Sweden granted temporary protection to 30 persons (25 from Somalia and 5 from Iraq). The Swedish government established a legislative system of temporary protection in July 1994 to cover persons not eligible for refugee or de facto status (now defined as "in need of protection" under the amended Aliens Act). Under 1997 amendments, Sweden may also grant such status in situations of mass flight.

Temporary protection is granted initially for two years with the possibility of renewal for another two years as long as the recipients have begun preparing to return to their home countries. Temporary protection expired for Kosovo Albanians living in Sweden in early 2001 when the Swedish Parliament decided not to grant them a renewal. Of the 4,000 Kosovo Albanians who have applied for asylum in Sweden since 1999, 2,530 have been granted asylum.

Persons granted temporary protection are entitled to work and to bring their immediate families to Sweden. They are housed in government-sponsored reception centers or, if it can be arranged, in private accommodation. They receive the same social welfare benefits and emergency health care as asylum seekers. Minors have full access to health-care facilities.

Resettled Refugees

Sweden's resettlement quota in 2001 was targeted at 1,800 persons. During the year, Sweden actually resettled 1,089 persons, including 298 from Iran, 270 from Afghanistan, and 252 from Iraq.

After arriving in Sweden, each admitted person must affirmatively seek UN Refugee Convention status. If the individual is denied such status, he or she is usually granted permission to stay either on humanitarian grounds or as being "in need of protection." Each refugee resettled in Sweden is assigned to a municipality upon arrival, and the local authorities are responsible for the refugee's integration.

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