Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 30/04/24


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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 considered when designating suitable accommodation and where needed they are placed in the vicinity of institutions that can provide expert care.[1]

The Swedish 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.[2]

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 Swedish 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.[3]

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.[4]

The Swedish Migration Agency had previously special accommodation for especially vulnerable people in the three major cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. However, they are all closed today, and the Swedish Migration Agency has not acquired any new centres. The current solutions are a combination of both adapting the living arrangements in already existing centres and, in some cases, providing private apartments. Which solution is preferred varies depending on the need of the vulnerable person and interim solutions will sometimes have to be found since the adaptation of the existing accommodations might take time. The Swedish Migration Agency makes an individual assessment in each case where they should consider the need of special competences, medical care and private accommodation. For people that previously been subject to discrimination they should also take into account the safety of the person and if a special safe accommodation is preferred.

In cases where LGBTQI+ persons are involved, private apartments are preferred, and they try to place the persons close to larger cities, specialised centres or support centres for LBTQI+ persons.[5]

As already mentioned above, the Swedish Migration Agency 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 Swedish 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.

During a process of age assessment, the person will still be considered a child until a decision has been made that says differently. A person who claims to be an unaccompanied child will not be placed with adults until an assessment is made that concludes that the person is not a child. If a person claims to be a child but the Swedish Migration Agency assesses that it is obvious that the person is an adult, the Swedish Migration Agency can decide to change the person’s age directly when the person applies. The person will then be placed with adults.

Municipalities are also responsible 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 and over 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 or address their complaint to the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO). Between 2009 and 2020, a total of 17 complaints from asylum seekers regarding their accommodation were addressed to the Discrimination Ombudsman. However, none of these complaints lead to any further investigation.[6] In 2023, 13 complaints against the Swedish Migration Agency were registered with the Discrimination Ombudsman and 8 of these were from asylum seekers. They could not give information about how many were regarding accommodation.[7] No complaints against the Migration Agency regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation were registered in 2021 or 2022.[8] The Discrimination Ombudsman could not provide the information if any complaints against the Migration Agency in 2023 regarded discrimination on sexual orientation.

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 Swedish Migration Agency. In 2023, at least one centre in Västerås has special apartments for LGBTQI+ persons and activities arranged with specialised organisations.[9]

Asylum seekers who declare their LGBTQI+ identity as a reason for asylum are offered a place in the Swedish Migration Agency’s temporary housing. 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 provided with in the asylum process.[10]


Reception of persons with physical disabilities

The Swedish 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 Swedish Migration Agency. There is a cooperation between the Swedish Migration Agency with Västanviks folkhögskola, a Folk High School in Leksand to accommodate deaf asylum seekers.[11]


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 2023, a total of 4,590 women applied for asylum, which is less than 6,002 women in 2022.[12] 5,588 women applied for protection under the Temporary Protection Directive in 2023. This is significantly more than in 2022, when 30,850 women applied.[13]

Throughout the year, a total average of 29,445 women were registered in the reception system. This is similar to 26,790 women in 2022.[14]

Out of the women registered in the reception system:

  • 10% are listed as housed under the Swedish migration Agency and are asylum seekers,
  • 14% are in private housing and registered as seeking asylum,
  • 42% are in private housing and have applied for protection under TPD,
  • 31% are listed in housing under the municipalities and applied for protection under TPD,
  • 2% in other housing. [15]

In 2019, GREVIO published its report on Sweden’s implementation of the Istanbul Convention.[16] GREVIO highlighted shortcomings 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 reception accommodation centres have been reported, and three women have been killed since 2015. The Swedish Migration Agency have since updated their internal guidelines. In 2023, their policy was to not place men and women in accommodations together if they were not in the same families. Men and women can share bathroom facilities. They are generally well lit, but accommodations vary in standard.[17]

The Swedish Refugee Law Center has, in 2023, received reports from individuals complaining of sexual harassment and gender-based violence at the Swedish Migration Agency’s accommodations.[18] The Swedish Migration Agency is supposed to ensure a safe environment in all their accommodations but according to the reports we receive, this is not how all accommodations are perceived.

The accommodations provided by the Swedish Migration Agency are very different and some are not well suited to prevent gender-based violence. There are generally no social workers or police officers on site, but they have security measures of different standards. Some are based far from cities which leave women far from all services and in remote places. Accommodations are usually well lit indoors.  A women can ask for a female interviewer or interpreter, and this is usually possible for the Swedish Migration Agency to provide. The guards that are employed by the security companies can be both female and male.

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.[19] The guidelines describe that if the asylum seeker, following an investigation, needs help to increase security in their 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.

The Migration Agency can also, in cooperation with the police, arrange safe houses for threatened individuals. In these situations, even the municipal social welfare authority can be involved.




[1] Migration Agency, Redovisning av uppdrag att inrätta återvändandecenter (Ju2023/01593), 1 December 2023, is available in Swedish at: https://bit.ly/3wkJlQG, and Migration Agency, Rutin: Ta ställning till särskilda behov, initialt, 23 January 2023, provided via email by the Migration Agency.

[2] Migration Agency, Rutin: Ta ställning till särskilda behov, initialt, 23 January 2023, provided via email by the Migration Agency.

[3] Migration Agency, Rutin: Insatser för asylsökande med särskilda behov, 23 January 2023, provided via email by the Migration Agency.

[4] Migration Agency, Rutin: Insatser för asylsökande med särskilda behov, 23 January 2023, provided via email by the Migration Agency.

[5] Information provided by the Swedish Migration Agency.

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

[7] Diskrimineringsombudsmannen. Information provided upon request in March 2024.

[8] Information provided by Diskrimineringsombudsmannen via email in March 2022 and March 2023.

[9] Information provided by the Swedish Migration Agency.

[10] Migration Agency, Annual Report 2021, available in Swedish at: https://bit.ly/3KTSUYy, 106.

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

[12] Swedish Migration Agency, ‘Asylum’, available at: https://bit.ly/3Jdz4dg.

[13] Swedish Migration Agency, ‘Asylum’, available at: https://bit.ly/3Jdz4dg.

[14] Swedish Migration Agency, ‘Annual Report 2023’, Dnr: 1.3.2-2024-2238, 22 February 2024, available in Swedish at: https://tinyurl.com/Arsredovisning2023. 

[15] Swedish Migration Agency, ‘Annual Report 2023’, Dnr: 1.3.2-2024-2238, 22 February 2024, available in Swedish at: https://tinyurl.com/Arsredovisning2023.

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

[17] Information provided by the Swedish Migration Agency in March 2023.

[18] Information provided by the Swedish Refugee Law Center .

[19] Migration Agency, Rutin: Skyddat boende/skyddad adress/sekretessmarkering för asylsökande utsatta för våld eller hot om våld. Information provided upon request in January 2023.

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