During 1996, asylum seekers in Sweden submitted applications representing 5,753 persons, a 36 percent decrease from the 9,047 persons who applied in 1995, and a 69 percent decrease from the 18,640 persons who applied in 1994. By country of origin, the largest groups of asylum seekers during the year were from Iraq (1,557), Yugoslavia (636), Somalia (434), Iran (401), and Bosnia (262). An estimated 55,000 or more Bosnians remained in Sweden under various statuses at the end of 1996. During 1996, Sweden issued first-instance decisions on the applications of 5,654 persons, granting 2,550 (about 45 percent) some form of protection, overwhelmingly statuses that fell short of asylum. Sweden rejected the cases of 3,104 applicants, and referred the cases of 138 others to the Aliens Appeals Board. The cases of 987 other applicants were administratively closed during the year for non-appearance. The cases of 7,456 asylum applicants remained undecided in the first instance at the end of 1996. Including decisions issued on appeals cases, Sweden granted Convention refugee status to only 128 applicants, including 85 from Afghanistan and 10 from Iran. Sweden also granted de facto refugee status to 1,651 persons, and permission to remain on humanitarian grounds to 1,361 others. Some 63 asylum seekers were permitted to remain on other grounds. During 1996, Sweden approved 1,629 persons for admission under its refugee "quota." These included 667 persons from Iran, 579 from Iraq, and 323 from Bosnia. Some 596 of those approved had arrived in Sweden by year's end. In December, Sweden agreed to admit about 50 asylum seekers who had been jailed in Latvia for nearly two years. Asylum Procedure Asylum seekers who arrive at Sweden's border are first interviewed by the police. The Swedish Immigration Board (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 Aliens Appeals Board rules on appeals of SIV's decisions, and also can refer cases to the government for further direction. Asylum seekers may be granted status as Convention refugees, de facto refugees, or war resisters, or may be permitted to remain in Sweden on humanitarian grounds. In March 1996, responsibility for asylum policy in Sweden was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Ministry of Labor. In December, Sweden passed amendments to the Aliens Act that will significantly modify Sweden's asylum policy beginning in 1997. In certain respects, those amendments will expand protection by confirming that abuses by non-state agents may qualify as persecution and by authorizing the issuance of residence permits on protection grounds for persons who risk persecution because of their gender or sexual preference. However, the amendments also will cut back some levels of protection by eliminating de facto refugee and war-resister status. Restrictive Measures Sweden places applicants arriving from "safe third countries" into accelerated procedures. In concluding whether a third country is safe, Sweden does not necessarily consider whether that country has an asylum determination procedure. Sweden also places applicants who originate from countries that historically have had low approval rates into accelerated procedures, 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 1996, Sweden rejected the applications of 474 persons as manifestly unfounded and 446 others on safe third country grounds. These rejections accounted for 29.6 percent of all first-instance rejections during 1996. Under the 1958 Nordic Passport Union, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway are required to check passports at their borders with nonsignatory states and to readmit nationals of nonsignatory states who have passed through their territory and entered the territory of another signatory state without the necessary travel documents. In December 1996, Sweden signed the acts of adhesion to become a full member of the Schengen group of European Union countries. Among other provisions, the Schengen Agreement eliminates border controls between member states and establishes a burden-sharing arrangement whereby a single member state is deemed responsible for examining an asylum seeker's claim. Former Yugoslavs More than 55,000 Bosnians remained in Sweden under various statuses at the end of 1996, according to UNHCR, including an estimated 2,800 Bosnian Croats with Croatian passports. Most of the Bosnian Croats had asylum cases pending before the SIV at year's end. Previously, Sweden had sought to deport the Bosnians to Croatia, arguing that they were under the protection of Croatia and would be safe in that country.

This 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.