Special reception needs of vulnerable groups

Sweden

Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 21/04/21

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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 standards for the reception of vulnerable asylum seekers. Examples of groups of asylum seekers who might be in need of special measures are minors, women, persons with disabilities, people with mental or physical disorders, people who may be vulnerable to harassment due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression or elderly people. Victims of torture or rape may also be of need special solutions. The absence of a protective network can create additional vulnerability.

The standards set out the following:

Initial assessment: Prior to initial placement in the Migration Agency’s accommodation, the Agency shall ask the applicant if there are any special needs that he or she wishes to invoke before the placement. Where appropriate, the immediate needs are documented in an official note. The matter must urgently be referred to team leaders, decision-makers or other designated officer at the unit for assessment. In case the individual needs safe housing suitable accommodation must be booked. The Accommodation Secretariat notes the particular need and takes tis into account when designating accommodation.

Assessment during the asylum procedure: If a special need of safe housing arises during the current stay in Sweden this should always be promptly investigated and documented in the minutes or an official note. The case must be presented to the team leaders, decision-makers or other designated officer at the unit to book accommodation for these special needs. In that case the applicant must be relocated. Relocation takes place primarily at accommodation within the region. If a secure existence cannot be provided through redeployment within the region’s regular homes the Accommodations Secretariat must be promptly contacted. Contact with the Accommodation Secretariat shall be documented in an official note. The Accommodation Secretariat has the power to place centrally or relocate to safer places regardless of where in the country they have applied or initially been given a place to live in.”[1]

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.[2]

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. 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.[3]

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.

With regard to LGBTQI applicants there is a government proposal to strengthen the legal rights of these groups. It is proposed that the Migration Agency to improve its ability to continuously evaluate the quality of the examination of LGBTQI asylum applications; to change the format of the LMA cards issued to asylum seekers so that they do not create obstacles for transgender persons to register; to note in the Authority’s register the gender identity of asylum seekers based on self-identification and to ensure safe accommodation for LGBTQI people. In its submission to the government the Swedish Refugee Advice Centre proposed that attention should also be given to improving LGBTQI competence among legal representatives and the vulnerable situation of unaccompanied children making claims based on sexual orientation or gender identity grounds.[4] There was no follow-up on this proposal in 2019 nor 2020.

 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 contract with a Folk High School in Leksand to accommodate deaf asylum seekers. 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 2020, a total of 5,801 women applied for asylum.[5] Throughout the year, a total average of 14,602 women were registered in the reception system, out of which 45% were listed in housing under the Swedish migration Agency, 53% are in private housing, and 2% in other housing.[6]

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.[7] 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.

 

 

[1]Migration Agency, Kvalitetschefens instruktion angående standard för boendeplacering av sökanden med särskilda behov, I-37/2016, 13 June 2016.

[2] Information provided by the Swedish Migration Agency.

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

[4] Swedish Refugee Advice Centre, Yttrande över “Transpersoner i Sverige – Förslag för stärkt ställning och bättre levnadsvillkor” SOU 2017:92, March 2017, available in Swedish at: https://bit.ly/2OGRlpl.

[5] Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report of 2020, p. 39.

[6] Swedish Migration Agency, Annual Report of 2020, p. 51.

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

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