Detention of vulnerable applicants


Country Report: Detention of vulnerable applicants Last updated: 21/04/21


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Persons who have been victims of torture or are otherwise vulnerable are not excluded from being detained, despite international recommendations to exclude them.

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

  1. “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
  2. 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. In 2018 the detention of children has decreased in actual numbers but not in the duration of stay. Migration Agency figures for 2019 show that 6 children were detained on average for 4,8 days.


[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:


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