Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), which also acts as the country’s European Migration Network contact, reported that no moratorium on new immigration detention orders had been established in response to the Covid-19 crisis and that such a measure was not being considered. In addition, the Migration Board said that on 23 March a decision was made to decrease the number of immigration detention spaces from 520 to 302 in order to adhere to rules set by the Public Health Agency. Certain detainees were also released from detention as returns could no longer be made due to the Covid-19 pandemic (see the 6 July and 30 April Sweden updates on this platform). However, no specific health measures were taken for those released from detention. The Migration Board also indicated that detainees are not all tested for Covid-19. A health professional decides whether a test should be made if a detainee presents symptoms.
On 15 July, the Local news agency reported that since April Sweden’s reception of “quota” refugees has been on hold due to the pandemic. Sweden was set to receive 5,000 refugees through the system this year, but the country had only accepted around 1,300 when the system was suspended. However, UNHCR and IOM resumed work on the quota system in June, and Sweden has now determined that it can begin to accept refugees again. The head of the Resettlement Program at the Swedish Migration Board said: “We will carry out the transfers gradually and in close dialogue with the relevant municipalities and regions. In the first stage, it will be about twenty people.” Measures to protect refugees’ health and reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 have been put in place. Only those that are symptom-free and do not belong to a risk group will travel, and only to municipalities with a low spread of infection. It is expected that the first refugees will arrive in August.
As previously reported on this platform (30 April), the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR) has criticised what it argues is inadequate implementation of the rules and recommendations by health authorities in the country’s detention centres. Responses to a survey circulated by FARR among people detained in five of Sweden’s six immigration detention centres revealed that people continued to be detained and staff regularly changed without undergoing health screenings. In addition, while 57 percent of respondents reported having felt ill and exhibited Covid-19 symptoms including fever, coughs, and sore throats, only 13.8 percent reported that they had seen a nurse. A detainee commented: “It takes a long time before we get to see a doctor, and I’m afraid to get infected by Corona but unfortunately, nobody cares.” Another wrote: “I have told them I want to speak (to a nurse) but nobody comes and those who have seen the nurse just get a sleeping pill.”
- The Local, “Sweden to Take in Quota Refugees Again After Coronavirus Pause,” 15 July 2020, https://www.thelocal.se/20200715/sweden-to-take-in-quota-refugees-again-after-coronavirus-pause
- Migrationsverket (EMN Sweden), Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, 16 July 2020.
- A. Lindberg, A. Lundberg, S. Häyhtio, and E. Rundqvist, “Detained and Disregarded: How Covid-19 Has Affected Detained and Deportable Migrants in Sweden,” 13 July 2020, https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2020/07/detained-and
- Global Detention Project, Immigration Detention in Sweden, July 2018, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/sweden
- A Migration Agency Office in Sweden, (Susanne Lindholm, TT, “Sweden to Take in Quota Refugees Again After Coronavirus Pause,” The Local, 15 July 2020, https://www.thelocal.se/20200715/sweden-to-take-in-quota-refugees-again-after-coronavirus-pause).