Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 21/04/21
The report was previously updated in May 2020.
- COVID-19 consequences: The number of asylum applicants arriving in Sweden decreased drastically from 21,984 in 2019 to 12,991 in 2020 (i.e. marking a -41% decrease).This is mainly due to the travel restrictions introduced as a consequence of the Covid-19 situation. The possibility to apply for asylum and registration activities were maintained throughout the year, but Covid-19 further had an impact on the asylum procedure such as postponing asylum interviews or conducting them via videoconferencing. The average length of the asylum procedure (i.e. for all tracks) had significantly decreased from 507 days in 2018 to 288 days 2019, but increased again to a total of 302 days in 2020.
- Low recognition rates: The Migration Agency decided on 50,012 applications for international protection in 2020 and the backlog of pending cases has been reduced by half from 14,890 at the end of 2019 to 7,155 at the end of 2020. However, recognition rates dropped significantly compared to previous years. The overall recognition rate stood at 29% in 2020 compared to 39.7% in 2019. The recognition rate of Syrians decreased from 97% in 2019 to 76% in 2020 as a result of a change in the Migration Agency’s assessment of the situation in the country. Other nationalities affected by an important decrease of recognition rates include Eritreans, Afghan, Somalians and Iranians.
- Convention on the Rights of the Child: The CRC was implemented into Swedish law on 1 January 2020. As a result, the Swedish Migration Agency revised certain of its legal positions and there is an emphasis placed on child related issues. The Migration Court of Appeal also concluded in an important ruling of December 2020 that an expulsion of a 14-year old child who was born and raised in Sweden was unproportionate in light of her connection to Sweden.
- Dublin: The Migration Court of Appeal ruled that a decision by the Migration Agency to not take charge an asylum seeker upon request from another Member State cannot be appealed. No request for a preliminary ruling from the CJEU has been made. While Courts across the EU have not taken a uniform position on this issue, national courts in Germany and the United Kingdom have found that asylum seekers have a right to appeal rejections of take-charge requests.
- Reception capacity: Access to reception was not restricted during COVID-19 and there are no issues of homelessness or destitution during the asylum procedure. The total number of asylum seekers registered in the reception system decreased significantly from 40,312 in 2019 to 31,634 at the end of 2020. It should also be noted that the Migration Agency implemented a new measure whereby asylum seekers who choose to settle in socio-economically challenged areas are no longer entitled to a daily allowance. The aim of this measure is to combat segregation and encourage more asylum-seekers to settle in areas with better prospects. Recent reports indicate, however, that this legislative change did not result in a change of practice yet, as more than 2,000 asylum seekers settled in such areas between 1 July and 30 December 2020.
Detention of asylum seeker
- Impact of COVID-19 on detention: The number of persons being detained decreased by half from 4,144 in 2019 to 2,528 in 2020 as a consequence of the Covid-19 situation, both as a result of limiting crowding in detention facilities and because of difficulties in enforcing expulsion decision due to travel restrictions. Civil society organisations and detainees raised concerns in relation to the Covid-19 situation and issues reported included overcrowding, the impossibility to follow distancing rules between detainees, and shortcomings in cleaning and hygiene routines.
- Grounds for detention: The Migration Court of Appeal delivered several rulings concerning the detention of asylum applicants, restricting the possibility of the detention of asylum seekers in line with the Reception Conditions Directive.
Content of international protection
- Residence permits: A Cross-party Committee of Inquiry presented its proposals for Sweden’s future migration policy. The proposals include that temporary residence permits shall be the general rule for beneficiaries of international protection; while resettled refugees may be granted permanent permits. Residence permits should remain limited to three years for refugees and 13 months for subsidiary protection status holders, extendable by two year-periods. To qualify for permanent residence permits, beneficiaries of international protection would need to demonstrate civic education skills, a good knowledge of Swedish language, their ability to provide for themselves and, already as of the age of 15, so-called ‘good conduct’.
- Family reunification: The above-mentioned Cross-party Committee of Inquiry’s proposals for Sweden’s future migration policy also included proposals on family reunification. The proposal essentially suggests to make use of most of the restrictions previously introduced through temporary legislation, including by limiting the right to family reunification to core family members only, as well as applying requirements on income and housing (i.e. the size and standards of housing) that need to be met when family members apply for family reunification more than three months after the beneficiary was granted a protection status. However, the right to family reunification remains accessible both to refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection.