Country Report: General Last updated: 10/07/24


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The majority of detention decisions are taken by the Swedish 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 Swedish Migration Agency as well as 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 Swedish Migration Agency has handed over responsibility for a person’s case to them. This happens when the Swedish 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 Swedish 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 takes over responsibility.[6]

In the current system, the officers of the Swedish 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 based on the Aliens Act increased slightly from 3,028 in 2022 to 3,178 in 2023. This includes 5 children and 3,173 adults, out of which 406 were women and 2,767 men (compared to 7 child and 3,022 adults – 286 women and 2,736 men – in 2022).[8] There was a decrease in the number of detainees in 2020 compared with 2019 due to COVID-19. The number of detainees remained approximately at the same level in 2021 as in 2020. During 2022 the numbers returned to the normal situation before COVID-19.[9]

Detention orders in Sweden: 2019-2023
Year 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Number 4,144 2,528 2,216 3,028 3,178

Source: Swedish Migration Agency.

During 2022 a new detention centre in Mölndal replaced the detention centre in Kållered. During 2023, there were six detention centres (Gävle, Märsta, Flen, Mölndal, Ljungbyhed, Åstorp) with an overall capacity of 567.[10]

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 Swedish Migration Agency.[11]



[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 2023’, Dnr: 1.3.2-2024-2238, 22 February 2024, available in Swedish at:, p.78.

[9] Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report 2022, Dnr: 1.3.2-2023-2262, available in Swedish at:, 84.

[10] Swedish Migration Agency, ‘Annual Report 2023’, Dnr: 1.3.2-2024-2238, 22 February 2024, available in Swedish at:, p.78.

[11] 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