Country Report: General Last updated: 10/06/22


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The majority of detention decisions are taken by the Migration Agency, the Migration Courts or the Police. In some cases, the Swedish Security Service have authority to decide on detention.[1]

The Police authority can issue a detention decision before asylum seekers have their asylum case registered at the Migration Agency and also in cases where aliens are present illegally in the country or have been expelled on grounds of criminality and served their sentence but are still in the country.[2] The Police is also responsible for taking decisions on detention when the Migration Agency has handed over the responsibility for a person’s case to them. This happens when the Migration Agency no longer considers that the persons will leave the country on a voluntary basis even though their appeal has been rejected. Normally a rejected asylum seeker has 4 weeks to leave the country voluntarily, although this may in practice be extended if the circumstances warrant this.

The Migration Agency can take decisions on detention as long as they are handling the asylum case or an application for a residence permit.[3] The Migration Courts can issue decisions on detention while dealing with an appeal. If a decision on detention is taken first at the Migration Court, the decision can be appealed to the Migration Court of Appeal without being subject to leave to appeal.[4]

If a case is being dealt with by the government, e.g. in cases regarding expulsion due to a security threat, it is the responsible Secretary of State who can take decisions on whether an alien should be detained or not.[5] The police are also allowed to place an alien in detention, even if this is not their formal responsibility, when circumstances so require e.g. if there is a clear risk of an alien disappearing once apprehended. Even the coastguards and customs officers can detain an alien if there is a danger that the alien will go into hiding. However, the detention must be reported immediately to the police, who then take over responsibility.[6]

In the current system, the officers of the Migration Agency are not allowed to use coercive force to implement a decision. They must therefore call on the Police for assistance to for example escort an alien to or from the detention centre or to enforce and expulsion order when a detainee refuses to comply.[7]

The number of detainees decreased from 2,526 in 2020 to 2,216 in 2021. This includes 1 child and 2,215 adults, out of which 161 were women and 2,054 men (compared to 7 children and 2,519 adults – 230 women and 2,289 men – in 2020). There was a decrease in the number of detainees in 2020 compared with 2019 due to COVID-19. The number of detainees has remained approximately at the same level in 2021 as in 2020. This is likely because the COVID-19 situation has remained largely the same in 2021 as in 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the access to visit detention centres continued to be limited during 2021 and provided digital visits instead, i.e. via video communication tools. In 2021, detention centres limited the number of places in each centre from a total of 520 to an average of 323 due to the COVID-19 situation.[8]

Detentions orders in Sweden: 2012-2021
Year 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Number 2,564 2,893 3,201 3,959 3,714 4,379 4,705 4,144 2,528 2,216

Source: Migration Agency.


There were six detention centres in 2021 (Gävle, Märsta, Flen, Kållered, Ljungbyhed Åstorp) with a total of nine units and an overall capacity of 520, although reduced to an average of 323 in 2021 as a consequence of the Covid-19 situation.[9]

The number of persons detained because of inability to identify themselves is minimal, whereas the number of Dublin detainees who may still have an appeal pending is a little higher. In practice, applicants in Dublin procedures may abscond before an attempt to remove takes place.

During 2017 the rules were changed regarding which authority is responsible for Dublin returnees with a legally enforceable removal order so that these now are the responsibility of the police not the Migration Agency.[10]




[1] Ch. 10, Section 13(3) Aliens Act.

[2] Ch. 10, Sections 13 and 17 Aliens Act.

[3] Ch. 10, Section 14 Aliens Act.

[4] Ch. 16, Section 11 Aliens Act.

[5] Lag (1991:572) om särskild utlänningskontroll.

[6] Ch. 10, Section 17 Aliens Act; Lag (1991:572) om särskild utlänningskontroll.

[7] Ch. 12, Section 14 Aliens Act.

[8] Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report 2021, p. 82.

[9] Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report 2021, p. 82.

[10] Ch. 12, Section 14 Aliens Act

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