Place of detention


Country Report: Place of detention Last updated: 10/06/22


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There were six detention centres in 2020 (Gävle, Märsta, Flen, Kållered, Ljungbyhed and Åstorp) with a total of 16 units and an overall capacity of 520 persons, although reduced to an average of 323 in 2021 as a consequence of the COVID-19 situation.[1] The places in the detention centres were close to being fully occupied throughout 2020. This situation persisted in 2021.

Several civil society organisations expressed their concerns regarding the increased risk of infection for persons in detention who cannot be returned due to COVID-19-related obstacles.[2] The umbrella organisation Swedish Network of Refugee Support (FARR) organised an online survey with questions relating to hygiene, cleaning routines, access to information and health care inside the centres; based on which the public authorities were able to adopt adequate COVID-19 measures. Five out of the six detention centres were requested to contribute through anonymous answers and a total of 22% of the detained persons at that time participated to the survey. The respondents reported issues of overcrowding, the impossibility to follow distancing rules between detainees, and shortcomings in cleaning and hygiene routines. 57% of the respondents informed that they had experienced covid-19-related symptoms, but that only 13.8% of them were able to consult a nurse to that end. Further, many respondents added that they felt their concerns and worries were not taken seriously by the detention staff. They also informed they were reluctant to tell staff about their condition and potential symptoms, out of fear of being moved to a section with infected people, as a result of which they would be even more at risk of becoming sick.[3]

Detention centres can also hold third-country nationals who have never sought asylum but have received an expulsion order on other grounds such as minor crimes or for overstaying. The detention centres have to take responsibility for all those aliens who have received an expulsion or deportation order. However, persons who have an expulsion order because they committed a serious crime are detained either by the prison authority or the police. Furthermore, detainees who pose a real threat to others can also be removed to police custody.[4] However, a child under 18 may never be placed in a prison or in a police holding centre. There are no special detention centres for children.

The placement of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in police custody units and prisons has for a long time been criticised by NGOs, JO and the Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT).[5] The issue persisted, however, and in 2020 JO expressed further criticism including regarding the possibility for detainees to be held together and having contacts with the outside world. The JO considered that the Government needs to assess how detainees rights can be ensured and questions whether detainees who are not expelled for criminal offences should be placed in prison facilities at all.[6]

The Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a new report after their visit to Sweden in January 2021, where they expressed continued concerns regarding lack of access to health care and to legal aid for people being detained, and that detainees were placed in prison facilities.[7]




[1] Migration Agency, Annual Report 2021, p. 82, available in Swedish at:

[2] FRA, Migration: Key Fundamental Rights Concerns, November 2020, available at:, 32.

[3] Lindberg, A., Lundberg, A., Häyhtiö, S. and Rundqvist, E., Detained and Disregarded: How COVID-19 Has Affected Detained and Deportable Migrants in Sweden, 2020 available in English at:

[4] Ch. 11, Section 7 Aliens Act.

[5] See Swedish Refugee Law Center, Hur ser regelverket ut när det gäller förvar i Sverige och finns det problem med hur det tillämpas?, Rapport om Förvar av juriststudenterna Cecilia Alpin och Arvid Skagerlind vid Uppsala Universitet inom ramen för en människorättsklinik, 22 April 2020, available in Swedish at:, Swedish Red Cross, Förvar under lupp (Detention centres under the magnifying glass), May 2012, available at:; CPT, Report sent to the Swedish Government on the visit to Sweden from 9 to 18 June 2009, 11 December 2009, available at:;

[6] JO, Säkerhetsplacerade förvarstagna berövas sina rättigheter, 2020, available in Swedish at:

[7] CPT, Report to the Swedish Government on the visit to Sweden carried out from 18 to 29 January 2021, 9 September 2021, available 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