Detention of vulnerable applicants


Country Report: Detention of vulnerable applicants Last updated: 30/04/24


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According to Ch. 10, Section 2 of the Aliens Act, a child may be detained in the following circumstances:

  • “It is probable that the Police will be the authority enforcing the expulsion order or the child will be refused entry with immediate enforcement” and “there is an obvious risk that the child will otherwise [abscond] and thereby jeopardise an enforcement that should not be delayed”;[1] or
  • For the purpose of enforcing or preparing the enforcement of a refusal of entry or an expulsion order.[2]

In both cases, there is an express condition that alternatives to detention (“supervision”) are not deemed sufficient to meet the purpose pursued.[3] Children may not be detained for over 72 hours or, in exceptional circumstances, another 72 hours, hence in total maximum 6 days.[4] A child cannot be separated from its guardians through the detention of either the guardian or the child.[5] Where the child has no guardian in Sweden, detention may only be applied in exceptional circumstances.[6]

The Swedish Red Cross published a survey of children in detention during 2017. In their summary they state that “A review of the decisions that form the basis for the detention of the 57 cases also shows deficiencies in the application of law. The principle of the best interests of the child does not appear to have been applied in 33% of the decisions, which is contrary to Swedish law, EU law and international law. In 38% of the decisions, the mandatory application of the rules on alternatives to detention is lacking.[7]

A review of research on children’s health in connection with detention shows that there is strong evidence that it has a profound and negative impact on children’s health and development – also when it comes to short periods or with their families. Migration Agency figures for 2023 show that 5 children were detained, 1 girl and 4 boys. The average time of stay for girls where 2 days and for boys 47 days.[8] In 2022, 7 children were detained, 4 girls and 3 boys.[9]

Women are placed in the same detention centres as men, although there are certain parts of the detention centres where men are not allowed to go.[10]

In May 2020, RFSL Ungdom (RFSL Youth) published a report regarding young LGBTQI+ persons in detention.[11] The three detained persons interviewed in the report expressed inter alia stress and fear regarding who would find out about their sexual orientation and how they would be treated because of it. Recommendations to the Migration Agency in the report include training of staff at the detention centres in LGBTQI+ matters and the establishing of safe sections where LGBTQI+ persons can be placed if they want or need.




[1] Ch. 10, Section 2(1) Aliens Act.

[2] Ch. 10, Section 2(2) Aliens Act.

[3] Ch. 10, Section 2(1)(3) and 2(2) Aliens Act.

[4] Ch. 10, Section 5 Aliens Act.

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

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

[7] Swedish Red Cross, Barn i förvar, November 2018, available in Swedish at:

[8] Children can only be detained for a maximum of 6 days. The high average time reported for boys in 2023, 47 days, was due to the fact that the Swedish Migration Agency considered three of them to be adults during the time that they were detained. Out of the four boys detained, one was detained for one day and considered a minor during the whole time, the other three where detained for 9 days, 38 days and 139 days, one of them had a younger age registered in another EU-country but Sweden considered him an adult. The last two where considered adults at the time they were detained. After investigation, their age was changed so they were considered to be younger than eighteen and they were released immediately. This information were provided from the Swedish Migration Agency via email in March 2023. The Swedish Migration Agency conveyed that the boys who later were considered to be children would not have been detatined for so long if they had not considered them adults during the time they were detained.

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

[10] Migration Agency website, Uppsikt och förvar, available in Swedish at:

[11] RFSL Ungdom, Attention Detention – Situationen för HBTQ-ungdomar i Migrationsverkets förvar, 2020.

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