Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 19/04/23


Swedish Refugee Law Center Visit Website

Detainees are allowed visitors and to receive and make phone calls on an unrestricted basis. This also includes contacts with media or politicians. There can, however, be limitations based on practical reasons regarding the safe running of the detention centre.[1] Drunken visitors will not be admitted, nor will visits in large numbers at the same time. Visiting hours should be generous and flexible and at times that are suitable to the visitor. More flexibility is shown to members of the family than to adult friends of the detainees. These visitors can never be searched bodily, however, if it is necessary, a visit can be supervised for reasons of security. But a visit by legal counsel can only be supervised at the request of the detainee or legal counsel. If it is suspected that illegal objects have been handed over to the detainee then the detainee may be bodily searched after the visit. Visits should in general take place privately in a suitable room. If a visit is denied for some reason, the detainee has the right to appeal the decision. If a visitor does not wish to give their name then this is not in itself grounds to deny a visit, nor is it in itself sufficient grounds to decide to supervise the visit.

NGOs and UNHCR have unlimited access to detention centres. However as of 2018 NGOs have to designate in advance the persons from their organisation who visit the detention centres. As far as the author is aware, this has not caused any particular issue in practice. In 2020, the Swedish Church reported to the Fundamental Rights Agency that detainees were unable to receive visitors (including priests) as a result of COVID-19. It was also reported that detainees were becoming more mentally unstable compared to before the coronavirus pandemic.[2]

In the context of COVID-19, the Swedish Migration Agency had decided on 15 March 2020 to limit the detainees’ access to visitors as indicated by the Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO) following an inspection. However, detainees could still request visits which were assessed on a case-by-case basis. The JO concluded, however, that detainees were not properly informed about this possibility.[3]

Restrictions were lifted in February 2022.




[1] Ch. 11, Section 4 Aliens Act.

[2] FRA. Migration Bulletin: Key Fundamental Rights Concerns, November 2020, available at:, 3.

[3] JO, Migrationsverkets åtgärder med anledning av covid-19, available in Swedish at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – I Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation