Special reception needs of vulnerable groups

Sweden

Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 10/06/22

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The Swedish Government saw no need to make legislative changes in order to implement the recast Reception Conditions Directive, where special consideration is given to persons with special reception needs, inter alia in Article 22.

The needs of vulnerable asylum seekers are taken into account in designating suitable accommodation and where needed they are placed in the vicinity of institutions that can provide expert care.

The Migration Agency has established guidelines and procedures for the reception of vulnerable asylum seekers. Examples of groups of asylum seekers who might be in need of special measures mentioned are, with reference to Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive: minors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, victims of human trafficking, persons with mental disorders and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, such as victims of female genital mutilation.[1]

The procedure for measures for asylum seekers with special needs sets out that accommodation shall be adapted to the individual needs of the asylum seeker. If the asylum seeker has special needs, the accommodation shall be adapted accordingly. There might be a need to provide accommodation outside of the Migration Agency’s usual accommodation. A first screening shall be made at the time of application, but since the conditions might change over time, the identification and facilitation of special needs shall be made throughout the asylum procedure. Examples of special accommodation include ground-level apartments without thresholds, accommodation in the proximity of e.g. sign language interpreters and special schools, in the proximity of necessary specialised care or treatments, or a  separate room or apartment due to mental disorders.[2]

In the case of an asylum seeker who has been subjected to or is at risk of harassment due to any of the grounds of discrimination (gender, gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, religion or other belief, or age), placement in secure housing should be considered. The purpose of safe housing is to offer housing close to identity-creating networks and social contexts. This may, for example, apply to an asylum seeker who is vulnerable due to sexual orientation and needs access to such networks.[3]

The Migration Agency had previously special accommodation for especially vulnerable people in the three major cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. However, due to contract issues the Migration Agency has had to lease those centres and as of March 2021, there was only one remaining centre accommodating vulnerable persons in Borås. The centre can only accommodate 20 persons and is mostly occupied. The Swedish Migration Agency are currently looking into how to best accommodate persons with special needs. Current solutions include providing private apartments to foster self-determination and increase privacy. In cases where LGBTQI-persons are involved, apartments are usually close to specialised centres or support centres for LBTQI-persons.[4]

As already mentioned above, the Swedish Migration does not collect statistics on the different vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities, victims of torture, other vulnerable persons or LGBTQI persons with individual needs of extra security in housing, although vulnerability is not necessarily associated with group membership.

 

Reception of families with children and unaccompanied children

After placement in temporary accommodation, the Migration Agency assigns a municipality that will take care of the unaccompanied child. The municipality is responsible for appointing a guardian and for investigating the child’s needs and for taking a decision inter alia on placement in suitable accommodation. That can be in a foster home, as well as a home of relatives of the child (if deemed suitable accommodation after investigation). It can also be special accommodation for unaccompanied children. Unaccompanied children are never accommodated with adults.

Municipalities also have the responsibility for meeting the welfare needs of all children and can arrange for them to be sent either alone or with their family to a suitable residence where they can obtain expert help in relation to their problems. Unaccompanied children aged 16 are given a daily allowance of personal needs such as clothes, medicine and leisure activities.

Single women are housed together with other single women or single mothers taking into account language and which part of the world they come from. Families are kept together.

 

Reception of LGBTQI persons

Accommodation facilities can be problematic for LGBTQI asylum seekers as they can end up experiencing harassment. However, they can always request a transfer and also use the Applicants’ Ombudsman, a complaints mechanism within the Migration Agency, or address their complaint to the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO). Between 2009 and 2020, a total of 17 complaints from asylum seekers regarding their accommodation have been addressed to the Discrimination Ombudsman. However, none of these complaints lead to any further investigation.[5] No complaints against the Migration Agency regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation were registered in 2021.[6]

The special needs of LGBTQI persons are currently being addressed more seriously in the context of housing. The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex rights (RFSL) has successfully lobbied for LGBTQI persons’ interests and more effort is being made to find suitable solutions, which sometimes can consist in living in student-like corridor facilities. LGBTQI persons can be accommodated in specific centres on an individual basis or together with other vulnerable groups in the special centres established by the Migration Agency.

Asylum seekers who declare their LGBTQI identity as a reason for asylum are offered a place in the Migration Agency’s temporary housing. For each person an individual needs assessment is carried out, for example whether they require their own apartment, access to networks and medical care. An LGBTQI perspective is integrated into the social information that asylum seekers are initially provided with in the asylum process.[7]

 

Reception of persons with disabilities

The Migration Agency has special flats available to accommodate the needs of persons who are in wheelchairs. Persons with various forms of physical handicaps can have their needs assessed by the staff of the local municipality, who base their assessments on the general rules for the population at large. The municipality makes recommendations regarding an individual’s need for special care and the agreed costs are paid by the Migration Agency. There is a cooperation between the Migration Agency with Västanviks folkhögskola, a Folk High School in Leksand to accommodate deaf asylum seekers.[8] The Migration Agency can also in cooperation with the police arrange safe houses for threatened individuals, frequently women. In these situations, even the municipal social welfare authority can be involved.

 

Reception of traumatised persons

There is no separate accommodation provided for traumatised persons. There are specific homes for unaccompanied children where the municipality has the overall responsibility for the welfare of the children. Their needs are dealt with in accordance with general legislation in this field.

 

Reception of women

In 2021, a total of 4,219 women applied for asylum.[9] Throughout the year, a total average of 10,092 women were registered in the reception system, out of which 41% were listed in housing under the Swedish migration Agency, 54% are in private housing, and 4% in other housing.[10]

In 2019, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) published its report on Sweden’s implementation of the Istanbul Convention.[11] GREVIO noticed short-comings in the reception system. Despite the requirement in the Istanbul Convention to provide specialised centres for women, this has not been sufficiently implemented in practice. There have been reports of young migrant women being placed in accommodation with older men and sharing bathroom facilities. As a result, incidents of sexual harassment of women and girls and indications of gender-based violence at the reception accommodation centres have been reported, and three women were killed since 2015. There is an overall lack a formal policy on these issues and there is thus discretion left to the individual management of the different centres.

Thus, while there has been an improvement in identifying victims of gender-based violence, their accommodation remains an issue. As already stated above, there is currently only one centre for especially vulnerable people in Borås which can only house 20 persons.

The Migration Agency has developed a routine which provides guidelines for protected housing for those asylum seekers who have been subjected to, or threatened with, violence.[12] The guidelines describe that if the asylum seeker, following an investigation, needs help to increase security in his/her accommodation, measures shall be taken in the following order (the measures can also be combined, and an individual assessment must always be made):

  • Move to construction housing if the alien lives in his/her own housing.
  • New accommodation within the same unit, but not together with the perpetrator (if this is, for example, spouse / partner / family / relatives).
  • New accommodation in another location.
  • New accommodation at another reception unit.
  • Privately marked address.
  • Sheltered housing provided by local municipalities.

 

 

 

[1] Migration Agency, Rutin: Ta ställning till särskilda behov, initialt.

[2] Migration Agency, Rutin: Insatser för asylsökande med särskilda behov.

[3] Migration Agency, Rutin: Insatser för asylsökande med särskilda behov.

[4] Information provided by the Swedish Migration Agency.

[5] Diskrimineringsombudsmannen. Information provided upon request in February 2020.

[6] Information provided by Diskrimineringsombudsmannen via email in March 2022.

[7] Migration Agency, Annual Report 2021, p. 106.

[8] Västanviks folkhögskola, Mottagande av asylsökande, available in Swedish at: https://bit.ly/39YGvWa.

[9] Swedish Migration Agency, https://bit.ly/3LtRPXk.

[10] Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report of 2021, p. 60.

[11] GREVIO, Baseline Evaluation Report: Sweden, 21 January 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3riG6lu.

[12] Migration Agency, Rutin: Skyddat boende/skyddad adress/sekretessmarkering för asylsökande utsatta för våld eller hot om våld.

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