Detention in Sweden

last update: November 2015

Detention, time and trial

If you are locked in a detention you always have the right to legal representative about that you have been taken in detention. This means that you get a lawyer or attorney that works with if you should be kept in detention or be released. If you not say that you want to chose who will represent you directly when the police takes you they or the Migration Office will give you an attorney or lawyer.  If you are not happy with your legal representative it is normally hard to change afterwards.

Do not talk to the police without your legal representative. The police can try to make you say things that will make it harder for you to get out. The police decision can be appealed to the Court of Migration. You can ask your legal representative to do this. You can also say that you want to talk in the court. You always have the right to get your case tried by the Migration Court, but you do not always get to talk yourself. 

After the Court of Migration you can appeal to the Supreme Court of Migration. Only a small percentage of all cases are taken up by the Supreme Court of Migration


Isolation and visits

When you are in detention in Sweden you have the right to use Internet, have mobile phone and to have visitors, but they do not allow cameras or mobile phones with cameras. Contact organizations or persons that can support you! It might be easier if you get visits and someone can bring things you need from outside, but you also maybe need support and advice in the legal process. Sometimes there are also hunger strikes and protests inside the detentions, and then it can be good with contacts outside the detentions to tell and get help with spreading the information about the uprisings.


The following has been copied from ”Good Advise” published by FARR 2015 PAGE 35-38 >


The Migration Agency's locked unit is called a detention centre. Decisions about placing a person in detention are taken by the Migration Agency. If the case has been handed over to the police, it is the police that make the decisions.

Reasons for being placed in detention

According to the Aliens Act, an asylum seeker can be placed in detention for several reasons.

In conjunction with your entryinto Sweden or your submission of an application for asylumyou may be placed in detention...

if your identity is unclear or if you do not wish to co-operate in inquiries intoidentity. An unclear identity means that you cannot prove your identity to such an extent that the Migration Agency believes you. If your grounds for asylum can be assessed without knowing exactly who you are, you may not be taken into custody simply because your identity is unclear.

Later on in the asylum process you may be placed in detention...

➽ if you do not co-operate during the investigation, so that your asylum application cannot be assessed.

If your denial of entry or deportation is to be carried out and the Migration Agency has reason to believe that you will go into hiding or commit crimes inSweden.

In case it’s likely that you will be given a quick decision (a deportation orderwithout a thorough investigation). You may then be placed in detention even before the decision has been made.

Relatively few asylum seekers are placed in detention. It can be difficult to foresee who will be detained. The reasons behind the Migration Agency's or the police's assumptions that you will go into hiding vary. Common reasons are that you have lived in hiding before, that you have stated that you do not intend to co-­operate upon denial of entry or deportation, or that you have not been showing up at meetings to which you have been summoned. A decision by the Migration Agency or the police to place you in detention can be appealed to the migration court. A judge will then decide whether the reasons for keeping you in detention are adequate.

Time limits

If you have a decision of denial of entry or deportation you may not be kept in detention for more than two months unless there are exceptional (strong) reasons for this. After two months the detention decision must be re-­assessed. If this is the case, you and your legal representative will be summoned to a meeting with the Migration Agency. If your case has been handed over to the police the meeting will be held with the police instead. After these negotiations the Migration Agency or the police will decide whether there are exceptional reasons to keep you in detention for another two months. When these two months have passed the decision must be re-­examined once more. The two-month period cannot be renewed indefinitely, as law prohibits detention for more than twelve months in order to carry out the deportation. Decisions regarding continued detention could be appealed to the migration court.

If you have been placed in detention but have not been issued a denial­of-­entry or deportation order you may be locked up for a maximum of two weeks. If the authorities find that there are exceptional circumstances to keep you in detention, that decision should be re-­examined every two weeks.

You can also be placed in detention when you submit your asylum application in order foryour identity to be verified. Such detention may last a maximum of 48 hours and cannotbe extended. But this does not prevent you from being placed in detention later for other reasons.

Legal aid

If you are placed in detention you will be provided with legal representation after threedays. Your legal representative can appeal the detention decision before the two months have expired. Your solicitor might request that you instead be placed under supervision (that is to say be required to regularly report to the authorities) or be completely released. The solicitor helping you with your detention is not necessarily the same person who is in charge of your application for residency.

Your application for asylum

You can continue seeking asylum or residency from inside the detention centre, but youmight be deported before you get a decision. If you do not have an ongoing case when you are placed in detention it can be difficult to get a solicitor to take on your case.

You always have the right to write in your own language to the court or the MigrationAgencyand present new reasons for why you need protection in Sweden. If you have the means to, you are free to hire a private lawyer or solicitor. We recommend that you seekadvice from the voluntary organizations that visit the detention centres.

Embassy visits and travel documents

A common reason for being kept in detention for a prolonged period of time is that the authorities find it difficult to arrange travel documents for you. In such cases, the police canask you to visit your native country's embassy with them. You can refuse to go and it is unusual for the police to use violence in such situations, but they may try to force you by other means. You can also refuse to co-­operate in some other way, for example by notsigning the application for travel documents. However, this can be used against you innegotiations concerning whether to prolong your detention or not. Your refusal to co-operate in verifying your identity may also lead to withholding of your daily financial aid.


Your rights while in detention

The Aliens Act states that anyone held in detention should be treated humanely and withrespect for his or her dignity. You should be given opportunity for activities and recreation (which can mean games, TV and other things). You should also be able to perform physical exercise and spend time outdoors.

You have the right to healthcare during your time in detention, including at hospitals. If you are denied the healthcare that you consider yourself to be in need of, you should continue claiming your right. You may not bring alcohol and objects that might hurt you or others into detention centres.



You have the right to receive visits and in other ways contact people outside the detentioncentre, as long as this does not interfere with the running of the detention centre. It is common that you have to book visits in advance. The visits may be supervised, if that is considered necessary for security reasons. Detention centre staff will often ask visitors to write their names on a list. This information is not saved. The staff does not have the right toconduct body searches on visitors, to control what they bring into the facility. Theymay,however,search you after the visit. Whenyou have visits by your legal representativeor your lawyer, different rules apply. Your meeting may then only be supervised if your legal representative specifically requests it to be.



If it is considered necessary to uphold security and order at the detention centre, or if you are considered to be a danger to yourself or others, the Migration Agency may decide that you should be held separately from the other detainees. This might mean transfer to anordinary jail. A jail is a kind of detention centre run by the police, where suspected criminalsare also held. The security is more vigilant there.

If you have been placed in custody for reasons mentioned here, that decision should bereviewed at least every three days. You are entitled to assistance from the public counsel dealing with your custody case if you wish to contest it. You may not be put in jail if you areunder the age of 18.


Being places under supervision

Instead of detention, the Migration Agency or the police may decide that you should be placed under supervision. This means that you must report to the police station or the Migration Agency at regular intervals, for example twice a week. Children may also be placed under supervision. Supervision decisions should be re-­examined after a maximum of six months.


Children in detention

Children are rarely placed in detention. But the law does permit it, if it is done in order to execute a denial-­­entryof- or deportation order. A condition is that earlier attempts to deport the child have failed, even though the child has been placed under supervision. Besides, a child can be placed in detention in connection with an immediate removal order, or if it is likely that such an order will be issued.

The child may then be placed in detention as long as:

➽ there is an obvious risk that the child will otherwise hide in order not to be removed from Sweden


it is not enough to place the child under supervision.

A child may not be separated from his or her guardians (often the parents) by thedetainmentof either the child or the guardians. An unaccompanied minor (a child who has arrived in Sweden without his or her guardians) may be placed in detention only if there are exceptional reasons supporting such a decision. The child may not be kept in detention for longer than 72 hours, but if there are“exceptional reasons” the child may be detained for another 72 hours.

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