Adequate support during the interview
Although there is no specialised unit dealing with vulnerable groups at the Migration Agency, the issue of special needs of vulnerable asylum seekers is mainstreamed in the training of caseworkers. The Migration Agency has developed training courses for caseworkers who interview children, inter alia based on European Asylum Support Office (EASO) training modules, and those who have completed this training are designated as case workers especially for unaccompanied children. Similar courses have been carried out and instructions issued in relation to women refugee claimants and claimants with LGBTQI grounds.
Examples of measures taken given in the standard developed by the then Quality Assurance Unit of the Migration Agency on 25 September 2017 include prolonging the procedure to allow time for the applicant to put forward his or her claims; choosing a suitable residence for the applicant; as well as flagging medical care needs to the health authorities. It is stressed that employees of the Agency should refrain from making any medical assessment but that they should note what the applicant states about their medical condition. If the applicant states they have suffered torture then the veracity of that statement must not be investigated by agency employees. A suitable measure in such cases can be to lengthen the time for the procedure and, if necessary, book a medico-legal investigation.
Persons with special needs are generally channelled in the regular procedure, in particular where there are indications that an age assessment is needed or indications of human trafficking, torture, or issues of sexual orientation or gender identity. If special reports are needed to verify trauma of various kinds, the Migration Agency can grant an extension of the normal procedure time to accommodate this need and to collect additional documentation. Sometimes the applicant is not given enough time to do so.
On 1 January 2020, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was incorporated into Swedish national law and entered into force. However, according to Save the Children and Stockholm City Mission the incorporation has not yet resulted in any improvements for children in asylum procedures as of November 2020. The Swedish Migration Agency has explained that the legislative change mainly aims to strengthen the rights of children in law and practice, but it remains to be seen how this will be implemented in practice. The Migration Agency also stated that the new functioning of age assessment procedures will depend on developments in case law.
On 22 December 2020, the Migration Court of Appeal issued a ruling concerning a 14 year old child born and raised in Sweden. The Court found that her expulsion to Lebanon was in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that it was unproportionate given the child’s strong connection to Sweden.
An issue that was raised in 2019 by the University of Uppsala with the assistance by the Swedish Refugee Law Center relates to the fact that the SMA has rejected asylum claims of female applicants in cases where they can rely on a ‘male network’ (i.e. male relatives such as brothers, the father, male relatives from the woman’s husband etc.) in their respective home country. In such cases, the asylum claim may be rejected and women are subsequently deported to their country of origin. The authors concluded that relying on this so-called ‘male network’ in asylum assessments violates UNHCR guidelines and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This issue was particularly criticised and reported in cases involving women from Afghanistan.
In 2019, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) published its report on Sweden’s implementation of the Istanbul Convention. One of the comments from the GREVIO refers to the Aliens Act which foresees that permanent residence shall be granted to the asylum seeker where the relationship has ended following violence on the alien or the alien’s child or some other serious violation of their liberty or peace (Chapter 5 Section 16). However, there are some limitations on the definition regarding “violence” in practice. First, there is a focus on whether the relationship ended “primarily” due to violence and the relationship must be of a “serious, long term nature”. Second, when referring to violence, the violence must be “serious” or consist of “repeated incidents of degrading treatment”. In practice, a single incident of physical violence would not amount to the threshold required. Similarly, emotional, psychological financial abuse is not considered to reach the threshold of violence required in practice, according to information collected by women’s organisations and the Swedish Migration Agency. GREVIO finds it worrying that there is a duration requirement of the relationship (which is not a requirement under the Istanbul Convention) and further criticises the narrow definition of “violence”. As a result, women may be reluctant to end their relationship out of fear of not being believed or not meeting the “required” threshold of violence.
GREVIO further noted limitations regarding the gender-specific interviews with case manager, i.e. the difficulty to build trust and be able to tell traumatic experiences. Additionally, it was noted by GREVIO that women are unaware of the importance and relevance that their accounts of gender-based violence and persecution may have on the asylum procedure. Sweden has received a total of 41 recommendations from GREVIO and shall report back to the Council on Europe on their implementation at the latest by January 2022.
In 2020, a total of 5,801 women applied for asylum and the recognition rate for women was 34%.
In November 2020, RFSL published a report in which they had examined more than 2,000 asylum decisions from the Migration Agency and judgments from the Migration Courts in LGBTQI cases during the period 2012–2020. The report finds that that a number of explicit requirements are put upon the asylum seeker by the migration authorities within the credibility assessments in LGBTQI cases and that the migration authorities have a number of preconceptions about and expectations on LGBTQI people, that have a great impact on whether or not asylum seekers are considered as having made their claims credible. According to the report, the migration authorities’ requirements lack support in the Swedish Aliens Act and contravene the Migration Agency’s judicial guidelines, UNHCR’s guidelines, EU Directives and the European Court of Justice’s case law.
Exemption from special procedures
When implementing the Asylum Procedures Directive, Sweden saw no need to change or modify existing legislation, due to the new Article 24 on applicants in need of special procedural guarantees, even though many authorities and organisations, including the Migration Agency, Swedish Red Cross and UNHCR, saw a need to do so.
Unaccompanied children and other vulnerable groups are not per se exempted from the accelerated procedure, although individual assessments of the appropriate track to be applied may be made continuously. “Track 4” may be applied to an unaccompanied child who has an unfounded claim and who can be accommodated in reception facilities in the country of origin.
 Information provided by the Migration Agency, August 2017.
 Migration Agency, Kvalitetschefens instruktion om standard för dokumentation av särskilda behov, I-78/2017, 25 September 2017.
 Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report 2020, Dnr: 1.3.2-2021-1600, 85.
 Migration Court of Appeal, Decision MIG 2020:24, 22 December 2020.
 Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report of 2020, p. 39.