Sweden

4,705

Immigration detainees

2018

13

Detained children

2018

5

Long-term centres

2018

36,017

New asylum applications

2019

253,787

Refugees

2019

Overview

Sweden used to be lauded for its comparatively humane treatment of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. However, since the onset of the “refugee crisis,” the country has introduced a series of restrictive immigration control measures and the domestic political environment has become increasingly hostile. Even as the numbers of refugee applicants have steadily fallen, the country has continued to increase its detention capacity, detaining more individuals and for longer periods. While detention conditions compare favourably to those of neighbouring states, there are growing concerns about deficiencies in the provision of health care services for detainees.

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

17 July 2020

A Migration Agency Office in Sweden, (Susanne Lindholm, TT,
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).

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.”


06 July 2020

Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman Office logo, (Ombudsman website, https://www.jo.se/en/)
Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman Office logo, (Ombudsman website, https://www.jo.se/en/)

Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office reported that Sweden had not established a moratorium on new immigration detention orders and that no such measure was under consideration. The Ombudsman’s office indicated that the Swedish police released immigration detainees in cases where expulsion could not be executed in the foreseeable future. Migrants and asylum seekers released from detention must observe the rules that the Public Health Agency has issued, for instance, physical distancing, washing hands, staying home if one has symptoms of Covid-19, and no using public transport unless absolutely necessary.

The Ombudsman’s office also stated that immigration detainees may be tested for Covid-19 if they have symptoms of the disease. If a detainee has symptoms, they will be placed in a separate unit in isolation. In addition, there is to be limited and specially designated staff who are authorised to work in that separate unit to avoid spreading the infection to other detainees.

Regarding removals, the Ombudsman’s office indicated that they did not have information to which countries removals were taking place and stated that Sweden had not adopted new immigration or asylum policies in response to Covid-19.


08 June 2020

Märsta Detention Centre, (SVT News,
Märsta Detention Centre, (SVT News, "Över 250 rymningar från fem förvar," 12 May 2017, https://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/stockholm/over-250-rymningar-fran-fem-forvar)

Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office reported that as far as they were aware, Sweden had not established a moratorium on new detention orders and was not contemplating such a measure. The Ombudsman stated that while some 200 detainees had been released from immigration detention, they were unable to provide information on any measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 amongst released detainees or whether any “alternative to detention” (ATD) programs have been put in place. The Ombudsman’s office also said that only detainees who showed symptoms of Covid-19 were being tested and that as of late May, only a minority of those showing symptoms were actually tested.

Concerning removals, the Ombudsman’s office reported that although they did not have official statistics, news reports from April indicated that the number of deportations had gone down sharply during March-April 2020, in comparison to the same period in 2019. Sweden has also placed a temporary ban on all non-essential travel to Sweden from all countries except the EU, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The travel ban has been extended until 15 June 2020. All visa applications for non-EU nationals are being rejected by the Swedish Migration Agency at this time.


30 April 2020

Gävle Detention Centre, (“Migrationsverket anmäler två anställda i Gävle,” SVT, 23 June 2014,  https://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/dalarna/migrationsverket-i-gavle-anmaler-tva-anstallda)
Gävle Detention Centre, (“Migrationsverket anmäler två anställda i Gävle,” SVT, 23 June 2014, https://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/dalarna/migrationsverket-i-gavle-anmaler-tva-anstallda)

Sweden’s response to Covid-19 has been different to the approach taken by many neighbouring European countries. It has not imposed quarantine on its population, but rather called on its citizens to “take responsibility” and follow the recommendations of health authorities. To date, Sweden has recorded more than 21,000 cases of Covid-19 and 2,586 deaths related to the virus.

Sweden places on average some 3,000 people in immigration detention every year in its five dedicated immigration detention centres, which have a total capacity of around 519. This has now been reduced to around 300 to avoid overcrowding and according to the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), a certain number of detainees have been released as there are no tenable legal grounds to detain them when expulsion is not possible in the near future. Decisions to release are made on individual grounds by both the Migration Agency and the police and released asylum seekers are required to report two to three times a week to the police. However, detainees have been released without any provision of support. They are not provided with housing or a daily allowance and so they are wholly dependent on the generosity of their networks to survive. In addition, they are denied normal access to health care as they have been expelled from the benefits that asylum seekers have. However, in respect of contagious such as Covid-19, asylum seekers will be provided with the necessary care free of charge. For other health conditions, a visit to a doctor can cost up to 1000 SEK (around $US 100) and any medicines prescribed will not be sold at subsidised prices.

FARR has reported that one of the detainees they have contact with has a serious heart condition and despite being in need of a life saving operation and in a poor mental and physical condition, the person is still held in a detention centre. FARR also reported that a few weeks ago, a detainee held in the same centre died. He had been offered the possibility to leave the detention centre, but as he had nowhere to go, he chose to remain in the centre. As his condition deteriorated, he was moved from the detention centre and died while in care.

NGOs in Sweden, including FARR, have called for the release of immigration detainees, but so far there has not been any general measure taken to prevent persons from being placed in detention. The Migration Agency and the Border Police have stated that they are still planning to deport/remove persons from Sweden. However, the Afghan Ministry for Refugees wrote a letter on 18 March 2020 to European countries requesting them to halt all deportations to Afghanistan due to the Covid-19 threat. Swedish authorities have not yet released an official response.

A FARR-associated group that visits detention centres reported that they regularly received alarming reports of the conditions inside the detention centre and the detainees’ fears of contracting the virus. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Migration Agency has suspended access to detention centres including for NGO visiting groups and alternative solutions are being implemented, such as using video contact with detainees. Normally, the visiting groups will have access to telephone interpreters, however, according to FARR, the Swedish Migration Board will not provide an interpreter for video calls thus making it difficult to communicate with many detainees.

The Migration Agency produced its own guidelines for measures to be taken in view of the pandemic. However, according to reports received by FARR, some of the measures mentioned are not being followed. As a consequence, FARR lodged a formal complaint with the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO) suggesting they carry out an inspection. This has however not been possible to arrange due to the pandemic but the JO has already planned to inspect detention centres this year and it is hoped that the inspection will be carried out further along the year. It is important to note that while the JO does not have legal power to make authorities comply with their recommendations, they do have a certain level of influence.

A project has been launched in Uppsala where people can access information on Covid-19 in 15 languages through Whatsapp groups set up by the Cooperative Organisation for Immigrant Unions in Uppsala. The project focuses on newly arrived immigrants as well as those who lack sufficient knowledge in the Swedish language.

The Swedish Refugee Law Centre has also published an online page providing information for undocumented asylum seekers. The online resource covers information regarding access to health care for undocumented people and delaying appointments at the Swedish Migration Agency for those who are ill or have Covid-19 symptoms.

As regards the country’s prisons, on 24 March 2020, visits and day releases were suspended. The Swedish prison authority also advised that they would pay for phone calls to family members of detainees. In addition, no new prisoners will be admitted into the country’s prisons, even if persons have been sentenced to prison terms.


Last updated: July 2018

Immigration Detention in Sweden

 

 

KEY CONCERNS

  • The annual number of immigration detainees in Sweden increased from 3,200 in 2014 to 4,400 in 2017, and its detention capacity has expanded by nearly 40 percent since 2015, with new detention centres planned;
  • Despite legal limits on the detention of children, the country continues to detain them (78 in 2017, 108 in 2016);
  • The average duration of detention increased from 18 days in 2015 to 31 days in 2017;
  • “Alternatives to detention” are rarely used because individual assessments of their feasibility are not systematically performed;
  • Health care in detention has been criticised as inadequate because detainees do not receive initial medical screenings and there are reported shortcomings in confidentiality.

 

1. INTRODUCTION

Traditionally, Sweden has been lauded for having more humane detention practices than its Scandinavian neighbours, including Norway and Denmark. Yet, a sharp increase in the number of asylum applications in 2015 (more than 160,000) triggered a shift in both policy and public discourse. In January 2016, the Swedish government introduced new border controls, boosted police forces, and revealed plans to deport up to 80,000 non-citizens who do not qualify for refugee status.[1]

The country also introduced new regulations to reduce the attractiveness of Sweden as a destination country.[2] In 2016, for example, Sweden adopted a law providing temporary limitations on residence permits (2016:752) (Lag om tillfälliga begränsningar av möjligheten att få uppehållstillstånd i Sverige) while restricting the right to family reunification.[3]

This restrictive policy environment has proved divisive. While anti-immigrant political parties have gained increasing support, many civil society groups have fervently opposed the harsh treatment of migrants and asylum seekers. The global notoriety garnered by a viral video showing a Swedish student’s successful on-flight protest in July 2018 to keep an Afghani man from being deported to Afghanistan helped draw attention to the polarised environment in Sweden around migration issues, while also shining “a spotlight on domestic opposition to Sweden’s tough asylum regime,” as one newspaper reported.[4]

Among the government’s priorities in the area of migration is the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers.[5] Sweden seeks to foster “voluntary” return by making accommodation and daily allowances contingent upon consent to leave the country. Authorities have also posted liaison officers in countries of origin, adopted a bilateral understanding on readmission with Afghanistan, and intensified crackdowns against irregular migrants.[6] The number of returns has subsequently increased: from approximately 6,600 in 2014 to roughly 10,000 in 2017. Approximately a third of annual returns are forced returns.[7]

These measures are being pursued despite a significant drop off in the number of asylum applicants in recent years—from approximately 162,500 in 2015 to 26,000 in 2017 (similar to Austria’s 2017 numbers). Likewise, the number of apprehensions has dropped—from around 72,800 in 2014 to 2,150 in 2017 (comparable to the Netherlands).[8]

The country's immigration detention estate has expanded in tandem with Sweden’s hardening policy environment, with capacity increasing from 255 in 2015[9] to 357 in 2016.[10] In 2018-2019, detention capacity is set to increase further with the opening of new centres. With detention capacity increasing, the annual number of detainees has also risen, from approximately 3,200 in 2014 to 4,400 in 2017.[11] Likewise, the average length of detention increased from 18 days in 2015 to 31.5 days in 2017.[12] According to government sources, the need for detention has been increasing, and this trend will continue as more individuals receive expulsion orders or rejection decisions in the wake of the large number of asylum seekers arriving in 2015, as well as the extension of internal immigration controls.[13]

 

2. LAWS, POLICIES, PRACTICES

2.1 Key Norms. The 2005 Aliens Act (2005:716) (Utlänningslag) regulates the country’s migration policy, including conditions for the issuance of visas, long-term resident status, work permits, and refusal of entry to the country, as well as “coercive” control measures, which include immigration detention and penal sanctions. The Act has been amended several times. The 2012 amendment incorporated the EU Returns Directive.

Deportation and detention were first introduced into Swedish law with the 1914 Deportation Act. The 1927 Aliens Act, along with amendments in 1945 and 1954, broadened the state’s detention powers and introduced changes to detention regulations. The 1945 law provided that a migrant could be detained in order to facilitate his deportation, while the 1954 law specified the grounds on which a person could be detained. An amendment in 1976 restricted the grounds for immigration-related detention, providing that a non-citizen could be detained only if there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the individual would abscond or take part in criminal activities, or if their identity could not be established.[14] The 2005 Act, however, once again expanded the range of grounds justifying detention.

2.2 Grounds for detention. Grounds for administrative immigration-related detention (förvar) are provided in Chapter 10 of the Aliens Act. In addition, the Aliens Act sets out grounds for criminal prosecution and incarceration for immigration-related violations (see section 2.12 Criminalisation).

The Aliens Act specifies that non-citizens over the age of 18 may be detained when: their identities cannot be clearly established; there is no proof of the right to enter or stay in Sweden; or when detention is deemed necessary in order to investigate their right to remain in Sweden. In cases when it appears likely that a person will be refused entry or deported, they can be detained if authorities deem them to be a flight risk or potentially engaged in criminal activities (Chapter, 10, Section 1). According to Caritas Sweden, several of these grounds are ambiguous.[15]

In 2015, the Migration Court of Appeal ruled that the detention-related provisions of the Aliens Act cannot be used in the case of transfers under the EU Dublin Regulation. In a more recent ruling, however, the same tribunal concluded that the applicable rules on detention under the regulation cannot be interpreted in a way which would hinder Dublin transfers.[16]

2.3. Asylum seekers. The above grounds apply to both asylum seekers and undocumented non-citizens. In practice, however, asylum seekers in regular procedures constitute a small proportion of migration detainees—less than 4 percent.[17]

2.4 Children. The Aliens Act provides that non-citizens can be detained once they reach the age of 18. At the same time, however, the Aliens Act also describes two situations in which children may be detained for immigration-related reasons (Chapter 10, Section 2, paragraphs 1 and 2). First, a child can be detained if it is likely that they will be refused entry or have already been issued a deportation order, there is an “obvious” risk of absconding, and supervision is deemed insufficient for carrying out the order. Secondly, in cases where supervision has previously proved insufficient to enforce an order, detention can be used to enforce a refusal of entry or expulsion order. In 2017, 78 children were detained; in 2016, 108 were detained;[18] and in 2015, 80 were detained.[19]

According to the Aliens Act, children cannot be separated from their guardians by detaining either the guardian or the child. When the child does not have a guardian (an unaccompanied minor), detention may only be applied in exceptional circumstances (Chapter 10, Section 3).

Children may not be detained for more than 72 hours or, in exceptional circumstances, for an additional 72 hours (thereby totalling six days) (Chapter 10, Section 5). The average detention time for children decreased from 3.9 days in 2016 to 2.5 days in 2017.[20]

2.5 Length of detention. The legal limits on the length of detention vary according to the grounds for detention.

Detention for the purposes of investigating the migrant’s right to remain in Sweden under Chapter 10, Section 1, paragraph 2(1) of the Aliens Act cannot exceed 48 hours. Detention during the verification of the right of a foreign national to enter or stay in Sweden is to be limited to two weeks, unless there are exceptional grounds for a longer period. Those detained while awaiting deportation may be detained for two months, although this can be also be extended on the basis of exceptional grounds.

Even in instances of exceptional circumstances, an individual may not be detained for longer than three months. However, if a non-citizen is failing to cooperate or there are delays in the arrival of necessary documents and it is thus likely that an expulsion process will take longer, detention can last up to 12 months. Meanwhile, detention time limits do not apply in situations where an expulsion is sought in response to a migrant’s criminal activities (Chapter 10, Section 4, paragraph 2).

According to official figures, the average length of detention for all categories of detainees was 13 days in 2009; 11 days in 2010; 10 days in 2011; seven days in 2012; and five days in 2013. More recently however, an upward trend has been observed—with detainees facing increasingly lengthy detention times. From 18 days in 2015, the average length of detention rose to 26.6 days in 2016, [21] and to 31.5 days in 2017.[22] 

2.6 Procedural guarantees. Detention orders are most frequently issued by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket, formerly the Migration Board) or the Police Authority. The same authorities also review detention orders. A judicial authority will only be involved in review proceedings when a detainee appeals their detention.[23] Detention orders are to be reviewed within two weeks, unless the detainee has already been served with a refusal of entry or expulsion order, in which case their detention must be reviewed within two months. Orders are to be subsequently reviewed regularly within the same intervals If a detention order is not reviewed within the prescribed period, it should be set aside. Detainees have access to an oral hearing before each review (Chapter 10, Sections 9, 10, 11 (1), and 12).

The Aliens Act provides that migration detainees should be appointed a public counsel after three days in detention (Chapter 18, Section 1, paragraph 4), and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has called upon Sweden's authorities to ensure that all non-citizens have this access from the outset of detention.[24] However, as the Swedish Red Cross notes, detainees only have access to legal counselling if the Migration Agency or Police consider them to be in need of legal aid.[25] Following criticism from the Parliamentary Ombudsman regarding deficiencies in regards to public counsels, the Migration Agency issued an internal instruction in 2017 outlining the criteria required for asylum seekers to be appointed a legal counsel.[26]

On the other hand, Swedish law does not specify that detainees have a right to access translation services. In practice, however, the CPT noted that interpretation services are provided when necessary, and are paid for with public funds.[27]

There appear to be a number of concerns regarding procedural standards in the penal facilities that are used to hold immigration detainees. For instance, during its visit to the country in 2015, the CPT interviewed several immigration detainees who reported that they had not been clearly informed of the reasons for their transferal to prison, the duration of their detention in that facility, or how to challenge this transfer. The committee reported that an automatic review of the transfer to prison was neither provided in legislation nor carried out in practice. Furthermore, most of the detainees claimed that, upon admission to prison, they had not received any oral or written information about their rights or the facility's house rules. The CPT noted that such information was available—but only in Swedish.[28]

2.7 Detaining authorities and institutions. The Aliens Act specifies the authorities with decision-making powers and enforcement duties vis-à-vis immigration detention. Authorities empowered to issue detention orders include the Migration Agency, the Migration Courts, the Migration Court of Appeal, and the police. The Migration Agency is part of the Ministry of Justice and is responsible for enforcing detention orders and overseeing detention centres (Chapter 10, Sections 13, 14, 17, and 18; Chapter 11, Section 2).

The Swedish national police also have the authority to detain suspected irregular non-citizens. Such instances must be reported immediately to the Migration Agency, which must then determine whether detention should be continued (Chapter 10, Section 17).

2.8 Non-custodial measures. The Aliens Act provides one non-custodial alternative to detention—"supervision” (uppsikt). This requires non-citizens to regularly report to the police or to the Migration Agency, and may also require them to surrender their passports for the duration of the supervision period. Supervision orders are reviewed within six months following a decision, and are immediately ceased if the grounds for detention are no longer valid (Chapter 10, Sections 6-8, and Section 9, paragraphs 2 and 4).

The language used in the Aliens Act is substantially more in favour of alternatives to detention for children than adults. While it clearly states that a child may be detained when supervision is insufficient, it specifies that adults can be placed under supervision instead of being detained (Chapter 10, Sections 2 and 6).

Sweden's Migration Agency has noted that supervision provides advantages to both migrants and the government. Reporting involves minimal costs and less administrative burdens.[29] Despite this, it acknowledged that alternatives are rarely used.[30] As the Red Cross observed, individual assessments examining the feasibility of supervision are not systematically performed, and detention decisions rarely explain why supervision was deemed insufficient. The Red Cross thus advocated for adjusting the Aliens Act and introducing a similar provision concerning adults as is currently set forth regarding children.[31]

According to official figures, 675 non-citizens were granted supervision instead of detention in 2017 (of whom 79 were Afghans, 68 Iraqis, and 32 Somalis); 421 in 2015; 405 in 2013; 396 in 2012; 289 in 2011; 270 in 2010; and 288 in 2009. The majority of those given alternatives are rejected asylum seekers, who accounted for 275 in 2013; 269 in 2012; 220 in 2011; 160 in 2010; and 178 in 2009. A small proportion were children—20 in 2013; 30 in 2012; 15 in 2011; 29 in 2012; and 20 in 2009.[32]

In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the limited use of non-custodial measures for migrants and asylum seekers. It thus requested Sweden to ensure that the detention of migrants and asylum seekers is a measure of last resort, that detention is necessary and proportionate to the circumstances, and that alternatives to detention are applied in practice.”[33]

2.9 Regulation of detention conditions. Pursuant to the Aliens Act, non-citizens detained for immigration-related reasons are to be held in premises that have been designed for this purpose. The Migration Agency is responsible for such premises (Chapter 11, Section 2, paragraph 1).

The Aliens Act provides a number of specific rules to govern how detention centres are operated and to ensure appropriate environments for different detainees. Detention facilities are to be organised in a way which minimises the infringement of detainees’ integrity and rights. Non-citizens are to be informed of facility rules, and must have access to recreational activities, physical training, and outdoor exercises. Children placed in detention are to have the opportunity to play and to access age-appropriate activities, and families are to be accommodated together. Detainees should be able to receive visits and have the ability to contact the outside world—with the exception of cases where this would hamper the enforcement of their detention. For security reasons, visits may be monitored if necessary, but those conducted by a public counsel or a member of the Swedish Bar may only be monitored if the detainee specifically requests it. Detainees should have the same daily allowances as asylum seekers accommodated in the reception centres (Chapter 11, Sections 1, 3, 4, and 13).

Under the Aliens Act, immigration detainees should have access to the same level of medical health care as applicants for international protection, and detainees who need hospital care during detention shall have access to such treatment (Chapter 11, Section 5). Health care costs are covered if treatment cannot be deferred, and includes the care and treatment of diseases and injuries in cases where even a moderate delay can be expected to result in serious consequences for the patient. Preventive child and maternity care, and the treatment of communicable diseases, are free of charge. However, detainees pay approximately 5 EUR for visits to public primary doctors and for any medical treatment given after referral from such physicians.[34]

The Aliens Act permits placing adult detainees in isolation (within their own room) if it is necessary for the security and order of the detention centre or if the person poses a serious danger to himself or to others. If the non-citizen is to be kept separate because they are a danger to themselves, they must be examined by a doctor as soon as possible. The decision to put a migrant in isolation is taken by the Migration Agency and should be reviewed every third day (Chapter 11, Section 7).

2.10 Domestic monitoring. Volunteers from the FARR (Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups) visiting group to detention centres and the Red Cross regularly visit Sweden's detention centres. Since 2010, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has also visited centres several times a year.[35]

2.11 International monitoring. Like all Council of Europe countries that have ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Sweden receives monitoring visits from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee issued detention-related recommendations.[36]

2.12 Criminalisation. Chapter 20 of the Aliens Act sets out migration-related criminal sanctions: non-citizens may be fined or sentenced to one-year's imprisonment for irregular entry into the country; migrants who stay in Sweden without permission are liable to a fine; and non-citizens who remain in the country despite an entry ban may be fined or face a prison sentence of up to a year (Chapter 20, Sections 1,2, and 4).

2.13 Privatisation. Sweden is one of very few countries to have reversed its policy of detention outsourcing—a shift which followed widespread public criticism of private contractors.[37] The departure from private management was also accompanied by a transfer of responsibility from the police to the Migration Board (now the Migration Agency), which reflected a growing recognition at the time (in the mid-1990s) that immigration detainees were not criminal inmates and thus required separate treatment.

Until 1997, Sweden’s immigration detention centres were under the responsibility of the federal police, who outsourced the management of daily operations to private security companies.[38] Early reports on these centres by supra-national bodies such as the CPT generally commended operations at these centres.[39]

By the mid-1990s, however, the situation had changed dramatically, and Swedish media and human rights groups reported instances of violence, hunger strikes, suicide attempts, and growing unrest at detention facilities. “Human rights watch dogs criticized the lack of knowledge and experience of contractors in their work with asylum seekers and also the lack of transparency in management of the centres. The police were criticized for incidents of forced and occasional violent deportations.”[40]

The Swedish government ordered an inquiry into detention and deportation practices, leading to the introduction of significant reforms in immigration policy, which came into force in 1997. As part of these reforms, the government removed privately contracted security companies from immigration detention centres, transferred responsibility of the centres to the Migration Board, mandated that qualified health professionals be available, and decreed that facilities used for administrative detention not resemble prisons cells.[41]

Discussing the government’s reason for supporting the reforms, Anna Wessel, who was appointed head of the Migration Board in 1997, said, “It was an ambition from the government that the treatment of the detainees should also reflect the fact that they were not criminals so that we could not enforce limitations on their civil rights more than was necessary to obtain the purpose of detention. Apart from the fact that they cannot leave the premises they are entitled to the same rights as any other person would be … which means we have to guarantee that they can have contact with the outside world, they have freedom of information. We have to ensure that they can have visits from friends and relatives. Any decision that is taken to further restrict their freedom of movement such as, for instance, searching for dangerous objects or drugs or alcohol is a decision that can be appealed with the local Administrative Board. We have also opened up the detention canter for regular visits from the non- governmental organisations.”[42]

In the years immediately after these reforms were implemented, there were reportedly fewer incidents of self-harm and no major incidents of violence at Sweden’s immigration detention facilities.[43] In 1999, the CPT reported that “the most significant change at the centre concerned staff; at the time of the 1998 visit, it was no longer staffed by the police, but by Immigration Board personnel. The delegation observed that staff appeared to be attentive to the needs of inmates and were well equipped to perform their duties vis-à-vis detained foreigners (e.g. as regards knowledge of languages).”[44]

In a 2000 study exploring alternatives to detention and best practices in detention, the Refugee Council of Australia cited the “The Swedish Model of Detention” as an exemplar. The Refugee Council explained that Sweden had been able to implement humane practices “not by increasing security and secrecy, but by increasing consultation and access for NGOs, researchers and the media; the removal of companies running the detention centres, who don’t have the experience in the sensitive issues involved in working with asylum seekers; and by ensuring all detainees are treated with dignity and fairness, are aware of their rights and have the right to appeal.”[45]

2.14 Cost of detention. According to the Migration Agency, in 2013 immigration detention cost on average 420 EUR per day. That year, the Migration Board spent 28.7 million EUR on immigration detention, of which 20.7 million was spent on staff, 5.1 million on food and accommodation, 2.4 million on additional costs such as technical tools, 404,000 on medical care, and 67,000 on legal assistance.[46]

2.15 Transparency and access to information. There have been considerable discrepancies in annual statistics concerning the number of non-citizens detained in Sweden. According to a report from the European Migration Network, Sweden detained 81 asylum seekers in 2013, 87 in 2012, 87 in 2011, 89 in 2010, and 135 in 2009.[47] In contrast, responding to a joint Access Info-Global Detention Project (GDP) questionnaire, Sweden’s Migration Agency provided the following numbers of detained asylum seekers: 2,569 in 2012; 2,508 in 2011; and 2,409 in 2010.[48]

Similarly, the GDP has received contrasting statistics on the numbers of children placed in immigration detention. According to an October 2015 email from the Migration Service, a total of 41 minors were detained in 2011 and 50 in 2012.[49] However, in response to an earlier request sent jointly by Access Info and the GDP, the Migration Agency reported that 62 minors had been detained in 2011 and 61 in 2012.[50] Interestingly, the 2015 email from the Migration Service appears to state that Sweden does not have disaggregated statistics on accompanied and unaccompanied minors, while the response to the joint Access Info-GDP questionnaire provided disaggregated numbers.

2.16 Trends and statistics. According to statistics provided by the Migration Agency, the number of non-citizens placed in detention has risen steadily in recent years: 4,379 non-citizens were detained in 2017; 3,714 in 2016; 3,959 in 2015; 3,201 in 2014; 2,893 in 2013; 2,564 in 2012; and 1,941 in 2011.[51]

Of 4,379 migrants detained in 2017, 4,301 were adults (3,810 men and 491 women) and 78 children (43 boys and 35 girls). At the end of December 2017, the number of non-citizens detained was 466, while the total detention capacity was 357, which suggests instances of overcrowding.[52]

 

3. DETENTION INFRASTRUCTURE

3.1 Summary. As of January 2018, Sweden operated five dedicated detention centres, which were located in Gävle, Märsta, Flen, Kållered, and Åstorp. The total capacity of these facilities was 357.[53]  The size of Sweden’s dedicated immigration detention estate, which is comparatively smaller than many of its European neighbours, has experienced an overall increase during the past few years. It had a total of 357 beds in 2016,[54] compared to 255 in 2015[55] and 185 in 2008.[56] Reports indicate that as of early 2018, immigration centres were running at capacity and, on a few occasions, authorities had to release individuals due to lack of space.[57]

In addition to the recent increase in capacity at dedicated facilities, the government is planning to expand the country's detention estate to house an additional 150 non-citizens. In the meantime, as a temporary solution, Marsta and Flen facilities will increase their capacities and a temporary facility in Ljungbyhed will open later this year.[58] 

Immigration detainees can also be held for short periods at police stations and in purposefully designed units located in some of the country’s prisons. There are three occasions when the Migration Agency may place adult non-citizens in a prison, remand prison, or police arrest facility: when an individual is expelled for having committed a criminal offence; when an individual is being held in isolation in a dedicated detention centre but cannot be held there any longer for security reasons; or for "some other exceptional grounds." In the last two cases, the immigration detainee is to be confined separately from prisoners (Chapter 10, Section 20).

3.2 Detention facilities. Gävle, Märsta, Flen, Kållered, and Åstorp, as well as special units for immigration detainees in the Norrtälje and Storboda prisons.

3.3 Conditions of detention. According to the Migration Agency, all five detention centres have separate sections for women and families. Usually there are 2-4 detainees per cell; only at Märsta and Flen are there single cells. There are also some 6-person cells, and families are normally placed in their own 4-person rooms. Children are normally placed with their parents, but unaccompanied children are separated from adult detainees (but can share common areas if they wish to). There are no childcare facilities in detention centres. Sometimes only one parent is detained while the rest of the family is placed in non-secure accommodation. Detainees have access to an outdoor yard for at least three hours each day, and they can move freely within the centres themselves.[59]

Experts who have compared immigration detention conditions in Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg have concluded that immigration detainees in Sweden have fewer constraints. Detainees have almost unlimited access to internet, as well as other amenities such as libraries, table tennis tables, televisions, and gyms. Detainees are also not locked in their rooms overnight.[60] Mobile phones without a camera are allowed and detainees are provided with a phone in case they do not have their own.

Access to health care services, however, has repeatedly been flagged. Indeed, the country provides only limited access and provision is much less generous than the Benelux countries.[61] A 2016 study by the Faculty of Medicine in Uppsala on the health of immigration detainees in Sweden highlighted the problematic shortcomings, saying that they are a critical deficiency of the overall Swedish immigration detention regime. The study highlighted that detainees' access to health care is significantly restricted and that in only one centre did a doctor regularly visit the detainees, (once a week for half a day). Moreover, no mental health staff were employed in any of the centres.[62] The lack of medical care does, however, appear to have been noted: in a 2017 Migration Agency report, it was stated that one qualified nurse is now employed in every Swedish detention centre in order to improve medical care for the detainees.[63]

If custodial staff suspect that a detainee possesses forbidden substances such as drugs, alcohol, or harmful objects, a body search may be ordered. Detainees are also often searched by police before arriving at the centre—in which case, they are not searched again on arrival. If a body search is ordered, Swedish law stipulates that it must not go beyond what is necessary. Women, meanwhile, may not be subjected to body searches by, or in the presence of, a man—unless they are doctors or qualified nurses. The Migration Agency’s staff are only permitted to examine clothes, objects the detainee is wearing, bags, packages, and other objects brought to the centre, and are not allowed to carry out searches involving the examination of the outer, or inner, body, or to carry out tests.  Systematic security inspections are conducted to ensure that windows, walls, alarm systems, and electricity plugs work properly. However, such inspections may not involve a routine search of the detainees’ personal belongings. Bags, bedclothes, cupboards, or wardrobes cannot be searched, unless the staff reasonably suspect possession of forbidden objects.[64]

3.3.a Märsta detention centre. Established in 2003 close to Stockholm Arlanda Airport, the Märsta centre is Sweden's largest detention facility.[65] Its capacity recently increased from 75 in 2017 to 126 in 2018, and it is slated to increase again, to 150, during the summer of 2018. It has three units for men and one unit for women, families, and vulnerable persons.[66]

Upon its 2015 visit to the facility, the CPT noted that material conditions were generally of a high standard. The rooms were of adequate size (15 square metres for up to three persons), bright, and with adequate heating and ventilation. During the day, detainees could move freely within their unit and had access codes to their rooms. The unit which the CPT visited featured a recreational area equipped with sofas, television, and board and computer games, as well as computer rooms with internet access, and indoor gyms. Detainees were offered handicraft and art classes, could use a small library with books in various languages, and could access outdoor space for at least three hours each day. There were four meals per day. Detainees were allowed to use mobile phones without a camera function or were given such phones and could make calls from public phones. [67] In 2009, the CPT noted that visits could take place every day and the visiting rooms were pleasant.[68] Most of the detainees interviewed by the committee noted that the overall atmosphere in the centre was relaxed.[69] In 2009, the CPT noted that the staff was sufficient in number, had different cultural backgrounds, and spoke several languages.[70]

At the same time, however, the CPT expressed concerns regarding medical care. By virtue of an agreement between the detention centre and a local health centre, a general practitioner visited the centre once a week and a nurse three times a week. The hours of their visits were not fixed—rather, they were planned in response to the number of detainees who had approached custodial staff to register for consultations. The committee urged the authorities to ensure that custodial staff do not screen requests for medical consultations and that detainees can instead approach medical staff on a confidential basis. The CPT criticised the absence of medical screening upon admission to the facility and urged the authorities to remedy this shortcoming. Finally, the committee noted that some medical information was freely accessible to the custodial staff and called for an improvement in the  confidentiality of medical data.[71]

3.4 Prisons. In January 2015, Sweden opened two special units for immigration detainees in the Norrtälje and Storboda prisons. Norrtälje prison, which has 32 single cells, appears to be used most often for this purpose.

At the time of the CPT’s visit in May 2015, the unit was at capacity. When there are no available places in Norrtälje, detainees are either confined in the special unit in Storboda or at another penitentiary. At the time of the CPT’s visit, 13 immigration detainees were awaiting transfer to Norrtälje from a remand prison.[72]

Several migrants detained in Norrtälje complained to the CPT that at times they were locked up in their cells for 23 hours a day for up to three days in a row as an unofficial collective punishment for a fight between inmates. The committee stressed that any disciplinary sanction should result from disciplinary procedures rather than taking the form of an unofficial sanction. It reminded the authorities that collective punishment is unacceptable.[73]

The CPT recommended that the country put an end to the practice of confining migrants in penitentiary facilities, and that it should instead place them in dedicated immigration detention facilities. Pending this, the committee urged Sweden to ensure that non-citizens who are transferred to the special unit at Norrtälje prison are afforded organised activities, including work, education, and sport.[74]

Despite the criticism of the CPT as well as that of various NGOs, the practice of using penitentiary facilities is still on-going. However, there are currently no statistics available to illustrate how often non-citizens have been detained in police custody or prisons.[75]

 

[1] D. Crouch, "Sweden Sends Sharp Signal with Plan to Expel up to 80,000 Asylum Seekers," The Guardian, 28 January 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/28/sweden-to-expel-up-to-80000-rejected-asylum-seekers; L. Cendrowicz, "Refugee Crisis: Sweden's Mass Deportation of Asylum Seekers 'Could Strengthen EU Migration Policy'," Independent, 28 January 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugee-crisis-swedens-mass-deportation-of-asylum-seekers-could-strengthen-eu-migration-policy-a6840521.html; T. Rollins, "Refugee vs Economic Migrant: Are EU Policies Changing?," Aljazeera, 18 February 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/refugees-economic-migrants-europe-rhetoric-160214130119808.html

[2]  Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency), "The Changing Influx of Asylum Seekers in 2014-2016: Member States’ Responses: Country Report Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/17a_sweden_changing_influx_en.pdf

[3] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden; Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency), "The Changing Influx of Asylum Seekers in 2014-2016: Member States’ Responses: Country Report Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/17a_sweden_changing_influx_en.pdf

[4] David Crouch, "Swedish student's dramatic plane protest stops man's deportation 'to hell,'” The Guardian, 25 July 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/25/swedish-student-plane-protest-stops-mans-deportation-afghanistan

[5] Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency), "The Changing Influx of Asylum Seekers in 2014-2016: Member States’ Responses: Country Report Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/17a_sweden_changing_influx_en.pdf; Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency), "The Effectiveness of Return in EU Member States: Challenges and Good Practices Linked to EU Rules and Standards: Country Report Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/27a_sweden_effectiveness_of_retun_en.pdf

[6] J. Ahlander, ”Sweden Intensifies Crackdowns Against Illegal Immigrants,” Reuters, 13 July 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sweden-immigration-crackdown/sweden-intensifies-crackdown-on-illegal-immigrants-idUSKBN19Y0G8

[7] Eurostat, “Asylum and Managed Migration,” http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database

[8] Eurostat, “Asylum and Managed Migration,” http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database

[9] Caritas Sweden and Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2015, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[10] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2016, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[11] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[12] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden; Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2016, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[14] D. Debono, S. Rönnqvist, and K. Magnusson, Humane And Dignified? Migrants’ Experiences of Living in a ‘State of Deportability’ in Sweden, Malmö University, 2015; S. Jansson, Sweden and its Historical Productions of Migrant Detainabilities, Master Thesis, Malmö University, 2013.

[15] Caritas Sweden, “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2015, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[16] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[17]  Swedish Migration Board, "The Use of Detention and Alternatives to Detention in the Context of Immigration Policies in Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/studies/results/index_en.htm

[18] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[19] Caritas Sweden, “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2015, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[20] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[21] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2016, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[22] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[23] Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency), "The Effectiveness of Return in EU Member States: Challenges and Good Practices Linked to EU Rules and Standards – Country Report Sweden, European Migration Network (EMN), 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/27a_sweden_effectiveness_of_retun_en.pdf

[24] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[25] Alexandra Segenstedt (Swedish Red Cross), "Completed Practice Questionnaire for the Project MADE REAL: Sweden," ULB & Odysseus Network, 2015.

[26] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[27] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf; European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 9 to 18 June 2009, CPT/Inf (2009) 34," December 2009, https://rm.coe.int/1680697f4d

[28] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[29] Swedish Migration Board, "The Use of Detention and Alternatives to Detention in the Context of Immigration Policies in Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/studies/results/index_en.htm

[30] Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency), "The Effectiveness of Return in EU Member States: Challenges and Good Practices Linked to EU Rules and Standards – Country Report Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/27a_sweden_effectiveness_of_retun_en.pdf

[31] P. De Bruycker (Ed.), A. Bloomfield, E. Tsourdi, J. Pétin, "Alternatives To Immigration And Asylum Detention In The EU: Time For Implementation," Odysseus Network, January 2015, http://odysseus-network.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/FINAL-REPORT-Alternatives-to-detention-in-the-EU.pdf

[32] Caritas Sweden, “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2015, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden; Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[33] Human Rights Committee, "Concluding Observations on the Seventh Periodic Report of Sweden, CCPR/C/SWE/CO/7," 28 April 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/SEIndex.aspx

[34] Swedish Migration Board, "The Use of Detention and Alternatives to Detention in the Context of Immigration Policies in Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/studies/results/index_en.htm

[35] Parliamentary Ombudsman, "National Preventive Mechanism – NPM report from the OPCAT Unit 2011–2014," 2015, http://www.jo.se/Global/Report_NPM_Sweden_2011-2014__English.pdf

[36] Human Rights Committee, "Concluding Observations on the Seventh Periodic Report of Sweden, CCPR/C/SWE/CO/7," 28 April 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/SEIndex.aspx

[37] M. Flynn and C. Cannon, “The Privatization of Immigration Detention: Towards a Global View,” Global Detention Project Working Paper, September 2009, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/the-privatization-of-immigration-detention-towards-a-global-view-2

[38] G. Mitchell, "Asylum Seekers in Sweden: An Integrated Approach to Reception, Detention, Determination, Integration and Return," Asylum Seeker Project-Hotham Mission, 2001.

[39] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment from 5 to 14 May 1991, 1992, CPT/Inf (92) 4," https://rm.coe.int/1680697f05  

[40] G.Mitchell, "Asylum Seekers in Sweden: An Integrated Approach to Reception, Detention, Determination, Integration and Return," Asylum Seeker Project-Hotham Mission, 2001.

[41] Swedish Parliament, "Proposition 1996/97: 147 Änding i utlänningslagens förvarsbestämmelser," Regeringens proposition 1996/97: 147, 3 April 1997.

[42] P. Mares, “Ruddock Calls for Report on Child Accommodation Possibilities” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 19 December 2000, http://www.abc.net.au/pm/stories/s225856.htm

[43] Professional Alliance for the Health of Asylum Seekers and their Children (PAHASC), "Submission to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission: Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention," PAHASC, May 2002.

[44] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 15 to 25 February 1998. Council of Europe. Strasbourg, CPT/Inf (99) 4," February 1999, https://rm.coe.int/1680697f05

[45] Refugee Council of Australia, “Alternatives to Detention: The Swedish Model of Detention,” page last updated 8 November 2000, http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/current/alt-swedish.html

[46] Swedish Migration Board, "The Use of Detention and Alternatives to Detention in the Context of Immigration Policies in Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/studies/results/index_en.htm

[47] Swedish Migration Board, "The Use of Detention and Alternatives to Detention in the Context of Immigration Policies in Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/studies/results/index_en.htm

[48] Swedish Migration Board, Response to Global Detention Project/ Access Info Questionnaire, 20 March 2013.

[49] Niclas Axelsson (Migration Service), Email correspondence with Remi Vespi (Global Detention Project), 30 October 2015.

[50] Swedish Migration Board, Response to Global Detention Project/ Access Info Questionnaire, 20 March 2013.

[51] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[52] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[54] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2016, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[55] Caritas Sweden and Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2015, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[56] Swedish Migration Board, "Årsderovisning 2008," February 2009, http://www.migrationsverket.se/download/18.56e4f4801246221d25680001007/arr_2008.pdf

[57] A. Gustavsson, “Brist på förvarsplatser – personer försvinner spårlöst vid utvisningshot,” sverigesradio, 5 February 2018, https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=106&artikel=6875840; P. Kudo, “Brist på förvarsplatser – personer släpps innan utvisning,” serigesradio, 8 March 2018, https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=6646917  

[58] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden; Migrationsverket, “Fyra tänkbara platser för nytt förvar i norra Sverige,” 8 March 2018, https://www.migrationsverket.se/Om-Migrationsverket/Nyhetsarkiv/Nyhetsarkiv-2018/2018-03-08-Fyra-tankbara-platser-for-nytt-forvar-i-norra-Sverige.html; Migration Board, “Tomtförfrågan om nytt förvar i norra Sverige,” 17 January 2018, https://www.migrationsverket.se/Om-Migrationsverket/Nyhetsarkiv/Nyhetsarkiv-2018/2018-01-17-Tomtforfragan-om-nytt-forvar-i-norra-Sverige.html; P. Zupanovic, “Migrationsverket vill ha nytt förvar – söker fastighet i Skåne,” SVT, 4 May 2018, https://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/skane/migrationsverket-soker-lokal-i-skane-for-nytt-forvar

[59] Swedish Migration Board, "The Use of Detention and Alternatives to Detention in the Context of Immigration Policies in Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/studies/results/index_en.htm

[60] S.J.P. Rambil, “Life in Immigration Detention Centers. An Exploration of Health of Immigrant Detainees in Sweden and Three Other EU Member States,” Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine 1176, 2016, http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:898632/FULLTEXT01.pdf

[61] S.J.P. Rambil and M. Bjerneld, “Detainees, Staff, and Health Care Services in Immigration Detention Centres: A Descriptive Comparison of Detention Systems in Sweden and in the Benelux Countries,” Global Health Action, Volume 9, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4780110/

[62] S.J.P. Rambil, “Life in Immigration Detention Centers. An Exploration of Health of Immigrant Detainees in Sweden and Three Other EU Member States,” Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine 1176, 2016, http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:898632/FULLTEXT01.pdf  

[63] Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency), "The Effectiveness of Return in EU Member States: Challenges and Good Practices Linked to EU Rules and Standards – Country Report Sweden," European Migration Network (EMN), 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/27a_sweden_effectiveness_of_retun_en.pdf

[64] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

[65] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016)," 1 February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf; European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 9 to 18 June 2009, CPT/Inf (2009) 34," December 2009, https://rm.coe.int/1680697f4d

[66] Sofia Häyhtiö (Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR)’s visiting group to detention centre in Märsta), Telephone interview with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project), May 2018.

[67] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[68] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 9 to 18 June 2009, CPT/Inf (2009) 34," December 2009, https://rm.coe.int/1680697f4d

[69] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[70] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 9 to 18 June 2009, CPT/Inf (2009) 34," December 2009, https://rm.coe.int/1680697f4d

[71] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[72] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[73] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[74] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), "Report to the Swedish Government on the Visit to Sweden Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 28 May 2015, CPT/Inf (2016) 1," February 2016, http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/swe/2016-01-inf-eng.pdf

[75] Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), “Country Report: Sweden,” Asylum Information Database (AIDA), December 2017, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/sweden

IMMIGRATION AND DETENTION-RELATED STATISTICS

Total number of immigration detainees by year
4,705
2018
4,379
2017
3,714
2016
3,959
2015
3,201
2014
2,893
2013
3,205
2012
2,564
2012
3,137
2011
1,941
2011
3,015
2010
1,810
2010
1,742
2009
1,645
2008
1,735
2007
Top nationalities of detainees
Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq, Albania, Ukraine
2018
Number of persons granted alternatives to immigration detention
1,156
2018
675
2017
421
2015
405
2013
396
2012
289
2011
270
2010
288
2009
Number of detained asylum seekers
2,569
2012
2,508
2011
2,409
2010
Total number of detained minors
13
2018
78
2017
108
2016
80
2015
25
2014
28
2013
85
2013
50
2012
25
2012
41
2011
32
2011
21
2010
37
2010
Number of detained unaccompanied minors
14
2013
18
2012
11
2011
4
2011
6
2010
4
2010
1
2009
Number of apprehensions of non-citizens
1,720
2018
2,145
2017
1,211
2016
1,445
2015
72,835
2014
24,400
2013
23,205
2012
Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population
0.21
2015
0.19
2013
0.13
2010
Estimated total immigration detention capacity
302
2020
502
2019
417
2018
Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
5
2018
Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
357
2018
255
2015
Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
0
2018
Number of immigration offices
0
2018
Number of transit facilities
0
2018
Number of criminal facilities
2
2015
Number of ad hoc facilities
0
2018
Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)
10,750
2018
9,950
2017
11,865
2016
9,830
2015
6,630
2014
14,315
2013
16,140
2012
Number of deportations/forced returns only
2,945
2017
2,490
2016
2,545
2015
1,945
2014
Percentage of persons removed in relation to total number of people placed in removal procedures
46.4
2014
Criminal prison population
5,979
2017
5,245
2016
5,797
2013
Percentage of foreign prisoners
22.1
2016
30.9
2015
31.6
2013
Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
59
2017
53
2016
60
2013
Population
10,100,000
2020
10,100,000
2019
9,979,000
2015
9,500,000
2012
International migrants
2,005,210
2019
1,747,700
2017
1,639,800
2015
1,519,500
2013
1,385,000
2010
International migrants as a percentage of the population
17.6
2017
16.8
2015
15.9
2013
Estimated number of undocumented migrants
30,000 - 50,000
2009
Refugees
253,787
2019
248,226
2018
240,962
2017
230,164
2016
169,520
2015
142,207
2014
Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
23.36
2016
14.66
2014
Total number of new asylum applications
36,017
2019
52,674
2016
75,096
2014
Refugee recognition rate
25.3
2014
Stateless persons
31,819
2018
35,101
2017
36,036
2016
27,167
2015
20,450
2014
Number of immigration detainees on a given day
Number of detained accompanied minors
Number of detained stateless persons

SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)
59,938
2014
58,164
2013
Remittances to the country
3,976
2014
748
2011
Remittances from the country
695
2010
Unemployment Rate
2014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD)
5,240
2012
5,603
2011
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
14 (Very high)
2015
Pew Global Attitudes Poll on Immigration
53
2007
Unemployment rate amongst migrants
Detention for deterrence
Immigration Index Score
World Bank Rule of Law Index
Domestic Opinion Polls on Immigration

DOMESTIC LAWS AND POLICIES

Legal tradition
Civil law
Constitutional guarantees?
Yes (The Instrument of Government, articles 8-9) 1974 1974
1974
Core pieces of national legislation
Aliens Act (2005:716) (2005)
2005
Immigration-status-related grounds
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality
2018
Detention to prevent absconding
2018
Detention to effect removal
2018
Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations?
Yes (Yes)
2018
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration
Unauthorized entry (365)
2018
Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law.
365
2018
Average length of detention
29
2018
31.5
2017
26.6
2016
18
2015
5
2013
7
2012
10
2011
11
2010
13
2009
21
2008
17
2007
Maximum length of detention for asylum-seekers
365
2018
Provision of basic procedural standards
Right to legal counsel (Yes) Yes
2020
Independent review of detention (Yes)
2018
Access to free interpretation services (No) Yes
2015
Types of non-custodial measures
Registration (deposit of documents) (Yes) infrequently
2017
Designated non-secure housing (Yes) infrequently
2016
Supervised release and/or reporting (Yes) infrequently
2016
Release on bail (No) No
2014
Electronic monitoring (No) No
2014
Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice?
Accompanied minors (Provided) Yes
2018
Unaccompanied minors (Provided) Yes
2018
Asylum seekers (Not mentioned) Yes
2014
Additional legislation
Regulations, standards, guidelines
Non-immigration-status-related grounds providing for administrative detention in immigration legislation.
Has the country decriminalized immigration-related violations?
Longest recorded instance of immigration detention.
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order
Maximum length of detention for persons detained upon arrival at ports of entry
Impact of alternatives
Mandatory detention
Expedited/fast track removal
Re-entry ban

INTERNATIONAL LAW

Individual complaints procedure
Acceptance Year
CRPD, Optional Protocol to o the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008
2008
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 1999 2003
2003
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention 1986
1986
ICERD, declaration under article 14 of the Convention 1971
1971
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 1971
1971
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted
Observation Date
5/7
5/7
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies
Recommendation Year
Human Rights Committee § 33. The State party should: […]; (B) Ensure that the detention of migrants and asylum seekers is a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time, is necessary and proportionate in the light of the circumstances, and that alternatives to detention are resorted to in practice. 2016
2016
Regional legal instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
CPCSE, Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse 2013
2013
ECHR, Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (commonly known as the European Convention on Human Rights 1952
1952
ECHRP1, Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (amended by protocol 11) 1953
1953
ECHRP7, Protocol 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights (amended by protocol 11) 1985
1985
ECPT, European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment 1988
1988
CATHB, Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2010
2010
Recommendations issued by regional human rights mechanisms
Recommendation Year
Observation Date
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)

§ 39: take measures to improve the provision of health care to foreign nationals detained at the Migration Agency Detention Centre in Märsta. In particular, steps should be taken to ensure that: all newly-arrived foreign nationals benefit from comprehensive medical screening (including screening for transmissible diseases) by a doctor or a fully qualified nurse reporting to a doctor as soon as possible after their admission; custodial staff do not seek to screen requests to consult a doctor/nurse, and detained foreign nationals can approach health-care staff on a confidential basis; the confidentiality of medical data is respected.

§ 41: that the relevant legislation be amended so as to ensure that all persons held under aliens legislation (wherever they are detained) have an effective right of access to a lawyer as from the very outset of their deprivation of liberty and at all stages of the proceedings.

§ 72: put an end to the practice of placing persons detained under aliens legislation in penitentiary establishments and accommodate them in centres specifically created for that purpose. Pending this, the Committee recommends that steps be taken to ensure that foreign nationals transferred to the special unit at Norrtälje Prison are offered more organised activities, including work, education and sports.

§ 73: carry out a thorough and independent inquiry into these allegations; were the above-mentioned practice to be found to indeed exist, it should be terminated immediately.

§ 75: take measures to ensure that all detained foreign nationals transferred to the Prison and Probation Service establishments are fully informed of their situation, their rights, and the procedure applicable to them in a language they understand. This should be ensured by the provision of clear verbal information upon admission, to be supplemented at the earliest opportunity by a written form. The form should be available in the languages most commonly spoken by those detained under aliens legislation, and should contain information on detainees’ rights, house rules and applicable procedures. The establishments’ house rules should be translated in a variety of languages and posted around the detention areas.

2015
2015
2015
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

§ 143: ensure that asylum seekers are not detained in criminal detention facilities. 

2012
2012
2012
Bilateral/multilateral agreements linked to readmission
Year in Force
Observation Date
Bulgaria 1999
1999
2017
Croatia 2003
2003
2017
Germany 1954
1954
2017
Cyprus 2006
2006
2017
Denmark 1957
1957
2017
Estonia 2004
2004
2017
Finland 1957
1957
2017
France 1991
1991
2017
Latvia 1997
1997
2017
Lithuania 1997
1997
2017
Poland 1999
1999
2017
Romania 2002
2002
2017
Slovakia 2005
2005
2017
Iceland 1957
1957
2017
Iceland 2003
2003
2017
Norway 1957
1957
2017
Norway 2003
2003
2017
Switzerland 2003
2003
2017
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2005
2005
2017
Kosovo 2011
2011
2017
Montenegro 2003
2003
2017
Russian Federation 2012
2012
2017
Serbia 2003
2003
2017
Viet Nam 2008
2008
2017
Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council
Year of Visit
Observation Date
Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health 2006
2006
2016
Relevant recommendations by UN Special Procedures
Recommendation Year
Observation Date
None
2018
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
Yes 2010
2017
No 2015
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
International treaty reservations
Treaty bodies decisions on individual complaints
Regional treaty reservations
Regional judicial decisions on individual complaints

INSTITUTIONAL INDICATORS

Federal or centralized governing system
Centralized system
2018
Centralized or decentralized immigration authority
Centralized immigration authority
2018
Custodial authority
Swedish Migration Agency (Ministry of Justice)
2018
Swedish Migration Board (Ministry of Justice) Justice
2013
Swedish Migration Board (Ministry of Justice) Justice
2009
Swedish Migration Board (Ministry of Justice) Justice
2005
Swedish Migration Board (Ministry of Justice) Justice
2004
Apprehending authorities
Police Authority (Police) Ministry of Justice
2015
Swedish Migration Board (Immigration agency) Ministry of Justice
2015
Detention Facility Management
Swedish Migration Agency (Governmental)
2018
Swedish Migration Board (Governmental)
2013
Swedish Migration Board (Governmental)
2009
Swedish Migration Board (Governmental)
2005
Swedish Migration Board (Governmental)
2004
Formally designated detention estate?
Yes (Dedicated immigration detention facilities)
2018
Yes (Criminal prisons)
2018
Yes (Police stations)
2018
Types of detention facilities used in practice
Yes () Yes
2015
()
()
Authorized monitoring institutions
The Swedish Equality Ombudsman (DO) (National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI))
2016
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) (International or Regional Bodies (IRBs))
2015
Does NHRI carry out visits?
Yes
2015
Does NHRI publicly release reports on immigration detention?
Yes
2015
Does national preventive mechanism (NPM) carry out visits?
Yes
2016
Does NPM publicly release reports on immigration detention?
Yes
2016
Do NGOs carry out visits?
Yes
2018
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRBs) visit immigration-related detention facilities?
Yes
2015
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from inspections?
Yes
2015
Estimated annual budget for detention operations
32,000,000 (Yes) Yes Yes Yes
2013
Estimated annual budgets for particular detention-related activities
Staffing (23,000,000)
2013
Medical (451,000)
2013
Estimated cost per detainees day (in USD)
469
2013
Is the national human rights institution (NHRI) recognized as independent?
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints?
Does NPM have capacity to receive complaints?
NGO capacity to receive complaints?
Do NGOs publish reports on immigration detention?
Do parliamentary organs carry out visits?
Do parliamentary organs have capacity to receive complaints?
Do parliamentary organs publicly report on their detention findings?
Do internal inspection agencies (IIAs) carry out visits?
Do IIAs have capacity to receive complaints?
Do IIAs publicly report their findings from detention inspections?
Types of privatisation/outsourcing
Detention contractors and other non-state entities
Estimated annual budget for non-custodial measures (in USD)
Estimated costs of non-custodial measures (in USD)
Does the country receive external sources of funding?
Description of foreign assistance