IWB for Refugees: Sweden

Summary of the national legislation on refugees

Is the country following all the European/ International legislation on this matter? Seeking Asylum in Sweden is regulated by the Aliens Act[1]. Prior to November 24, 2015, the three types of asylum statuses in Sweden were: refugee; persons deemed in need of subsidiary protection, and; persons in need of other protection. From that date forward the latter status is not being considered on a temporary basis, as per a decision by the Swedish government, aligning the national policy with the policy of the rest of the EU[2]. As Sweden is a member of the European Union, the country adheres to the Dublin Regulation. Therefore refugees within Europe should apply for asylum in the first EU country that they enter – and as such, a refugee may be sent back to the first EU country of arrival.[3] The Migration Authority begins the application process by investigating whether it is Sweden or another EU country that is responsible for handling the application for asylum[4]. As a signatory to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and its Protocol, Swedish law defines a refugee according to the Protocol, in the Aliens Act[5]. In exceptional cases, a residence permit may be granted to asylum seekers who do not need protection from persecution but fall under Sweden’s international commitments – such as with those affected by serious health conditions or those who have been trafficked.[6] [1] Utlänningslag [Aliens Act] (Svensk Författningssamling (SFS) 2005:716), http://www.notisum.se/ rnp/sls/lag/20050716.HTM [Accessed 23/11/2016] [2] Press Release, Regeringskansliet, Regeringen föreslår åtgärder för att skapa andrum för svenskt flyktingmottagande (Nov. 24, 2015), http://www.regeringen.se/artiklar/2015/11/regeringen-foreslar-atgarder-for-att-skapa-andrum-for-svenskt-flyktingmottagande/ [Accessed 23/11/2016] [3] Council Regulation 604/2013, 2013 O.J. (L 180) 31, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ. Do?[Accessed 23/11/2016] [4] Migrationsverket, You cannot choose the country where your application for asylum is examined (the Dublin Regulation) http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Protection-and-asylum-in-Sweden/Applying-for-asylum/You-cannot-choose-the-country-where-your-application-for-asylum-is-examined-the-Dublin-Regulation.html [5] Ibid [6] Migrationsverket, “Att omsöka om asyl” http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Att-ansoka-om-asyl/Asylregler.html

Refugee life in Sweden

Number of people with a refugee status (give or take)? From 2005 – 2015, of the applicants for asylum through the Geneva Convention, subsidiary protection, humanitarian reasons, quota refugees, temporary law and others, 229 654 asylum seekers have been granted first permits in Sweden. This displays a steep increase over the course of the decade. This number does not include refugee family members.[1] Historically, Sweden has received a large number of asylum seekers. In 2013, Sweden received the largest number per capita in relation to the OECD countries. During the Iraq war, a single Swedish municipality, Södertälje, took in more refugees than both the United States and United Kingdom combined. During the Syrian war, Sweden was the first country in Europe to grant Syrian asylum seekers permanent residence permits. [2] In 2015, Sweden received 160 000 asylum applications, which is double the amount received in 2014 (80 000 asylum applications). The majority of applications received in 2015 were from Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, Eritrean and Somalian nationals. Nearly 22% of the applications (35 000) were from unaccompanied children, a high majority – 90% – of which were teenage boys between 13-18 years of age.[3] Top 5 countries they are coming from? The majority of applications received in 2015 were from Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi, Eritrean and Somalian nationals. In terms of demographics, nearly 22% of the applications (35 000) were from unaccompanied children, a high majority – 90% – of which were teenage boys between 13-18 years of age.[4] How much state allowance does a refugee receive a month? Financial aid is offered only if necessary, in the form of a daily allowance. The following is the subsidy refugees receive according to Migrationsverket, refugees were living on their own and are meant to buy their own food: 71 kr/ day for one adult living alone (7.52 €) 61 kr/ day for person is living with someone else/in house share (6.46 €) 37 kr/ day for children under the age of 3 (3.92 €) 43 kr/ day for children between 4–10 years (4.55 €) 50 kr/ day for children 11–17 years (except from the 3rd child onwards, where the grant is divided in half)( 5.30 €) Other than food, allowance is also meant to cover clothes and shoes, health care and medicine, dental care, hygiene essentials as well as leisure activates and, other consumables. This only goes to those who are legally allowed to avail of these services.[5] What are the living conditions of refugees (for example housing)? The Migration Authority offers temporary accommodation throughout the application period. The accommodation offered is often shared with other asylum seekers – although a family will always receive their own room. Single people may share a room with another of the same gender. The asylum seeker may be moved to a new apartment at any time. Adult asylum seekers, who are not caring for a child, must leave the accommodation in the event of a decision of expulsion or once the decision has come into effect.[6] The applicant may choose to forego the offered accommodation, to live with friends or family, or to find their own place. In this case the applicant must pay for the accommodation costs themselves. Whether the applicant lives in the offered accommodation or their accommodation is arranged by themselves, they must remain available to be contacted by the Migration Authority.[7] There are several organisations and institutions available to further help applicants during this time. If the application is approved and the applicant was residing in the Migration Authority Accommodation, help from the unemployment services of the Swedish Migration Authority is offered to find a new home. If the applicant however receives a residence permit because of employment, they must find a new home themselves.[8] Are the people with an official refugee status allowed to work? If yes, is there assistance for finding employment? Are refugees offered language lessons? Refugees who receive permanent or temporary residence are entitled to work. Once registered in the population register, they are able to register for “Swedish for Immigrants”, a language and culture course.[9] If those with a temporary residence permit find a job that enables them to support themselves once their residence permit expires, they may apply for permanent residence.[10] Applicants are also exempt from needing a work permit, and thus able to work in Sweden, if they have proved their identity, their case is being examined in Sweden, and the application is well founded.[11] While they are not able to register for “Swedish for Immigrants”, there are many organisations available for language learning and integration study circles.[12] Is there a maximum amount of time that a refugee can stay in the country in which it seeks asylum? Also receiving a legal refugee status? As of July 20, 2016, a new law came into effect granting approved asylum seekers in need of protection, a residence permit for 3 years. Those who receive the status of subsidiary protection receive a residence permit for 13 months. Unaccompanied minors who applied for asylum before November 24, 2015, are exempt from the new law, so long as they are still under the age of 18 at the time of the Migration Authority’s decision. As such, they are still entitled to permanent residence. The new law limits the ability for asylum seekers to be reunited with their families. With a temporary residence partner only your registered partner and children under the age of 18 can apply for a residence permit to move to Sweden. The couple must have lived together prior to fleeing to Sweden, and must be at least 21 years old if childless. This also means that the those we received a residence permit must be able to support their family financially and live in an adequate sized dwelling. Quota refugees from the UNHCR continue to receive permanent residence, which is valid for as long as they live in Sweden.[13] Do refugees or their children have the right to attend schools, universities, etc? Yes, asylum seeking children have the right to attend pre-school and school. Is the state obliged to provide asylum seekers with healthcare? Applicants are entitled to emergency health and dental care – although it is the local county in Sweden that decides what care is available for them. A medical examine is given as soon as possible after application by an external nurse – however it does not affect the decision, it is instead for the applicants own knowledge and benefit. Information can then be given on how to achieve any necessary further care.[14] If given a temporary or permanent residence permit, healthcare is available to refugees in the same manner that it is Swedish nationals. [1] Migrationsverket, Migration and Asylum 2005-2015 http://www.migrationsverket.se/download/18.2d998ffc151ac38715985f2/1460619533365/Overview-2005-2015+%282%29.pdf [Accessed 24/11/2016] [2] Library of Congress, “Refugee Law and Policy: Sweden”, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/refugee-law/sweden.php[Accessed 23/11/2016] [3] Ibid [4] Migrationsverket, “Att omsöka om asyl” http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Att-ansoka-om-asyl/Asylregler.html [5] Migrationsverket, The Migration Bureau http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Asylregler.html [Accessed 09/11/2015] [6] Ibid [7] Ibid [8] Migrationsverket, “Att omsöka om asyl” http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Att-ansoka-om-asyl/Asylregler.html [9] Migrationsverket, Permanent Residence Permits http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Protection-and-asylum-in-Sweden/When-you-have-received-a-decision-on-your-asylum-application/If-you-are-allowed-to-stay/Permanent-residence-permits.html [10] Migrationsverket, “Residence permits for those granted refugee status”, http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Protection-and-asylum-in-Sweden/When-you-have-received-a-decision-on-your-asylum-application/If-you-are-allowed-to-stay/Residence-permits-for-those-granted-refugee-status.html [11] Ibid [12] Ibid [13] Migrationsverket, Press Release “20 juli 2016: Ny lag som påverkar asylsökande och deras familjer” http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Nyheter/2016-07-20-20-juli-2016-Ny-lag-som-paverkar-asylsokande-och-deras-familjer.html [Accessed 24/11/2016] [14] Migrationsverket, “Att omsöka om asyl” http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Att-ansoka-om-asyl/Asylregler.html

The legal process

Describe the legal process of acquiring a refugee status, from the moment of entering the country of refugee as an asylum seeker until the point of receiving a legal refugee status. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gives Sweden about 1900 quota refugees annually. The UNHCR and the Migration Authority of Sweden screens and interviews the refugees prior to their arrival in Sweden. Alternatively, if the Migration Authority is not present for screening or interviews, the authority is given documentation by the UNHCR for review. Persons being accepted as a quota refugee must fit the description as of a refugee as laid out in the Aliens Act.[1] Those persons who are not quota refugees, who arrive at the border, must apply for asylum as soon as they arrive, through the Migration Authority. Each person’s application is reviewed individually, and residence permits should be granted to those who are refugees under the UN Refugee Convention, or to subsidiary protection in accordance with the common EU rules. The applicant’s gender identity and sexual orientation are taken into account. Special consideration is given to children, who are examined by an officer – children have the right to have an adult (parent, guardian, public counsel) present during investigation. If the applicant is considered a threat to national security or have committed serious criminal offence, the application will be rejected – however if they cannot return to their home country for risk of death or prosecution, they might receive temporary residence. Those we receive a residence permit as a refugee may request to get refugee status.[2] The applicant must prove their identity with a photo document issued by a competent authority, that shows the name, birth date and nationality. If the applicant cannot prove their identity upon time of application, they must actively work to obtain such a document. The Migration Authority will offer advice on how to achieve this.[3] There may be a long wait time after submitting the application. [1] Migrationsverket, “Flyktingkvoten” http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Flyktingkvoten/Fragor-och-svar-om-kvotflyktingar.html [2] Migrationsverket, “Att omsöka om asyl” http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Att-ansoka-om-asyl/Asylregler.html [3] Ibid.


Description of what happens if they do not receive the refugee status

Can they return to their country? If the Migration Authority denies the application, the applicant can either accept the decision to return to their home country, or appeal.[1] Can they go to a different EU country? The Migration Authority can determine whether the applicant should return to the EU country of first arrival as stipulated by the Dublin Regulation. If the application is processed and denied in Sweden, and the applicant does not leave Sweden within the time allowed, they may receive a re-entry ban, banning them from entry to any of the Schengen countries for a certain period of time.[2] Will they be deported? Upon decision of expulsion, and once the decision is taken into effect, those who have sought asylum are no longer entitled to receive assistance (such as accommodation or daily allowance), and must leave the country.[3] If the applicant does not leave within the time given, the responsibility is turned over to the police.[4] [1] Ibid [2] Migrationsverket, If your application for asylum is refused, http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Protection-and-asylum-in-Sweden/When-you-have-received-a-decision-on-your-asylum-application/If-your-application-is-refused/If-your-application-for-asylum-is-refused.html [Accessed 25/11/2016] [3] Migrationsverket, Press Release “2016-04-19 Lagändringar som påverkar asylsökande”, http://www.migrationsverket.se/Privatpersoner/Skydd-och-asyl-i-Sverige/Nyheter/2016-04-19-Lagandringar-som-paverkar-asylsokande.html [Accessed 24/11/2016] [4] Migrationsverket, If your application for asylum is refused http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Protection-and-asylum-in-Sweden/When-you-have-received-a-decision-on-your-asylum-application/If-your-application-is-refused/If-your-application-for-asylum-is-refused.html [Accessed 25/11/2016]

Analysis of how the media depicts the refugees in Sweden

Is there national media attention for refugees and refugee issues? More particularly during the influx of refugees arriving in Sweden, there has been much more national media attention. How are asylum seekers presented by the media? Overall, the media has a very heartfelt and compassionate way of viewing refugees in Sweden. Various newspapers describe the lives of refugees and the situation in their home countries. This seems to meant to inform the public of what these people are trying to escape, and that they are not in Sweden for the sake of financial gain. However, politics and the media are both intertwined yet very different in Sweden. The focus of the media covers mainly the political debate, stemming from discussions about the Sweden Democrats, the third largest political party in Sweden, contrasted with the personal stories from the refugees who have made it to Sweden and how their lives unfold. The media is for the most part sympathetic towards the people who have fled to Sweden, giving accounts of their journeys from their homes and their escape in search for something better. However, when crimes committed by people who are not Swedish by birth occur, their ethnicities are often highlighted, despite a lack of relation to the crime in question. Thus, this re-enforces the issue of the media today referring to ‘foreigners’ and especially Muslims, as a collective where many are to be associated with a few. This is the opposite of people who are not described as ‘foreigners’, when they commit crime, they are often described as ‘disturbed’ individuals[1]. Is being a country of refuge presented in a negative, neutral or positive way? In national news, being a country of refuge is often presented in a positive way – while acknowledging debates and concerns from government and society. In international news, Sweden’s refugee intake has been perceived both positively and negatively, depend on the news source. [1] Ghersetti, Mariana & Levin, Anna ’ Muslimer och islam i svenska nyhetsmedier. Om rapporteringen av terrorattackerna i USA den 11 september 2001’ http://www.mkc.botkyrka.se/biblioteket/Publikationer/islamimedia.pdf, 9/11/2015)

Follow-up on the refugee crisis

The ongoing debate around the Sweden Democrats has sparked a lot of discussion about how much Sweden can do in response to the ongoing crisis, and what the rest of the parliament is offering in terms of solutions. The Prime Minister states that it is up to all countries to contribute to the ongoing crisis. He acknowledges that this is the worst migration crisis since WWII and that it’s worrying that it is happening to begin with. When asked if the government are in agreement over the action to take in response to this, he says that there are lots of discussions but nothing is concrete yet. There is also talk of how the government is quite divided in how they would like to respond. The two points that were most discussed include: - The importance of making sure different communes (districts) accept their own responsibility and accept the appropriate ratio of refugees between them. - Focussing on the willingness and capacity at which Sweden can provide temporary asylums where it’s needed. Not all parties are onboard with this idea but the major ones are pushing for this to go through, at least during the ongoing crisis.[1] After the migration crisis became a big issue in the media, varied NGOs started campaigns to raise money for the cause. The Sweden Democrats however have won a lot of their support over by being labelled ‘the only party in Sweden who will properly deal with the immigration issue’. In recent months this opinion seems to have become more and more popular in Sweden, which seems to have put pressure on its politicians, especially after the Paris Attacks of the 13th of November, 2015.[2] These events seemed to have sparked policy debates which led to new ones being put in place as on the 24th of November, 2015. The new regulations meant Sweden, the country that has accepted most refugees per capita previously, to only accept as many as the EU- at minimum- requires. The government iterates that the move is to ensure other countries also contribute to the crisis. However, with the border closing between Denmark and Sweden, it seems as the policy and its following restrictions are only created to keep refugees out of the country. [1] Svensson, Anna and Eklund, Mats 16/10/2016 http://www.svt.se/nyheter/inrikes/nu-mots-partierna-om-flyktingkrisen25/11/20) [2] Chang Frick, 10/09/2015http://nyheteridag.se/efter-flyktingkrisen-sd-storsta-parti-med-hogsta-noteringen-nagonsin/, 9/11/2015 ) 14 Crousch, David 24/11/2015 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/sweden-asylum-seekers-refugees-policy-reversal, 24/11/2015)

The subjective perspective

Like most countries, there is certainly a group within the Swedish population that is far less accepting of refugees than the rest. However my own experiences have seen the majority of people as quite welcoming. Living in Malmö, the influx of refugees, especially throughout 2015, was more than visible – it was hard to miss. The main train station was consistently full of volunteers, the streets much more crowded than usual, and Swedish children around town can be heard learning Arabic words, helping refugee children feel more comfortable. “Language cafes”, meeting points for Swedes and foreigners to get together and practice speaking Swedish, grew in quantity, and as many of the refugees welcomed to Sweden were coming from Arabic speaking countries, they appear to have a better tendency of learning Swedish quicker than other English speaking foreigners – English is commonly spoken in Sweden, and as such learning Swedish feels less necessary. The efforts in learning, and perfecting Swedish, is visibly and vocally admired and appreciated amongst locals. However, Malmö has, for a long time, been very multicultural. Thus it is less of a surprise that social issues surrounding refugees have been less common than in many other parts of Sweden. You do not have to travel far from the Danish border to find people with very different perspectives, and lower levels of comfort around refugees. While ID checks on trains continue when arriving from Denmark, far less refugees have been arriving in comparison to 2015 – and with good timing. While throughout much of the crisis Swedes felt a certain pride in welcoming large numbers of refugees, as the crisis continued, more worries emerged. Now, at the end of 2016, a better sense of normalcy is felt in our day-to-day lives amongst our new neighbours.


Capital: Stockholm
Location: Northern Europe
EU-member since 1995
Currency: SEK (Swedish crown)
Population: 9,555,900
Min. wage:
Poverty line:
Population under poverty line:


IWB researchers

Erika Lundqvist

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"I joined this IWB project because I find the current refugee crisis and the issue as a whole incredibly interesting and important. I also felt that the way refugees are treated in many places is scary and inhumane, and that we need to work against this in any possible way."



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"I have always taken a keen interest in human rights, and have found myself defending the rights of refugees regularly in my everyday life. I believe that the concept of refugees has landed on the wrong side of the ever-influencing media, and so I have joined IWB to bring attention to the side less heard."