Last update : October 2015

Sweden has been quite successful in portraying itself as a human and just country, whereas at the same time pursuing tough and inhuman Migration and Asylum politics.

Created by potrace 1.10, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2011

A good example of this hypocrisy is how Swedish migration authorities handle Iraqi refugees. As early as 2006 Sweden claimed that Iraq was a ”safe country” and signed a repatriation agreement on asylum seekers with Iraq. Sweden has lead the work for forceful deportations to Afghanistan, claiming from the start that there are “safe alternatives for internal refuge”. Sweden has also been leading the way in implementing the common European asylum policy. During the Swedish Presidency in 2009 the Stockholm program was adopted, which piles migration together with “external and internal security”. Sweden has also been working a lot with changing labour directives and visa regulations to facilitate so called Circular migration, where migrants are exploited as workforce with a minimum of rights.

Sweden and other Nordic countries have escaped a lot of responsibility through the Dublin convention. Sweden rarely makes exceptions to the convention, and this leads to many refugees eventually being sent back to the country of their first asylum application. The only exception to this rule has been for Greece. In the summer of 2010, Sweden stopped sending refugees back to Greece on the grounds of the inhumane conditions in detention centres there. This however has been the only exception. In the spring of 2013 a new practice is in place, exempting unaccompanied minors from the Dublin regulations.

On this site we try to provide information about how Sweden regulates migration. If you are to apply for asylum in Sweden we recommend to read the full “Good advise” guide, published by FARR, un umbrella organization for migrant-solidarity groups in Sweden. It is available in many languages here.

We also strongly recommend to get in contact with any of the non-governmental organizations in the area of your destination listed under Contacts on this site, preferably before contacting the authorities.

Citizens from other EU-countries

If you are a citizen or have a permanent residency permit in another eu-country, your asylum application will be rejected by sweden. You can get residency permit by work, or by marriage.

Sweden also deports Roma people coming from Romania and other EU countries. The numbers being deported have not been very big, but this has created much discussion because they are EU citizens and thus formally have the right to be in Sweden without a swedish residence permit. A lot of racist rhetoric and hate-crimes have been directed towards Roma people in sweden that last years, without almost any response from investigating authorities.

The following was published on farr.se, 2015-09-15:

Here follows main facts about seeking asylum in Sweden:

If you want to seek asylum in Swedenyou should do that as soon as possible after arrival. But of course, if you are very tired and feel confused or don’t have information, it is not a problem to rest overnight or a few days while you try to seek legal advice before applying or traveling to another country.

The asylum procedure in Sweden is lengthy, but if you are accepted as a refugee or in need of protection you will probably get permanent residence.

Most asylum seekers arrive in Sweden without passports. That is no crime. If you have a false passport, don’t try to use it in Sweden. If you must show it, just say that you had to travel with it to flee.

Asylum seekers from Syria are currently granted protection in Sweden, but they still need to go through a regular asylum procedure. Syrians who have other citizenship as well, such as Armenian passports, those who have lived somewhere else for a while or have close family in some other country can be denied protection in Sweden. Those who don’t have passports will be asked to show in other ways that they are from Syria and they will be questioned to verify their stories.

Eritreans are also in general granted protection if they can show they are from Eritrea. There is always an individual assessment and practice can change.

Other nationalities: Most asylum seekers of other nationalities are rejected - like in other EU countries. The acceptance rate differs between 1 and 70 percent for different nationalities and the assessments are individual. You must fear personal persecution like death threats, torture or other severe mistreatment and you must be able to convince the Swedish authorities about the risk - and also that you couldn’t get protection in your country of origin. Therefore, any evidence and verifications that you could show to prove your situation would be good to put forward. It is also important that you can identify yourself in some way even if you don’t have a passport, and that you tell as many details of your story early in the procedure.

If you have been let into the EU by another EU country,you will not be turned back immediately at the border if you try to seek asylum in Sweden. But you can be ordered to go back to the other EU country after some weeks or months in Sweden, according to the “Dublin” regulation. Those who get such a decision are in general those who have been registered as asylum seekers OR have been forced to leave fingerprints at the external EU/Schengen border OR have arrived with a visa issued by another EU country. Fingerprints taken inside the territory of some other EU country or at borders between EU countries are normally not used for this purpose, if the person is not at the same time registered as an asylum seeker.

If you are an unaccompanied minor you will not be ordered to leave Sweden according to the Dublin regulation if you haven’t already got a decision on your asylum application (positive or negative) in another EU country. But it sometimes happens that the authorities don’t believe your age and then you could be treated as an adult.

FARR is a network of local activist groups and individuals. FARR has no connections with the authorities and cannot forward asylum applications. We have no possibilities to arrange for refugees to reach Sweden from abroad. Our mission is to defend the rights of asylum seekers and undocumented persons in Sweden.

Compiled information about a few common rumours and misconceptions:

• No, Sweden’s ability to provide asylum for refugees is not about to stop. There is no fixed level.
• No, it is not easier in general to get asylum in Finland than in Sweden. Finland’s asylum reception is small compared to other similar countries. But it is true that asylum seekers from Iraq who managed to get to Finland in the last year or so have got protection more often than in Sweden. However there is no guarantee that this practice will continue and be valid for all Iraqis.
• No, the Swedish police does not arrest and deport you right after you apply for asylum – however, they may of course arrest you if you are here without papers and refuse to seek asylum.
• No, the Swedish Migration Board will not force you to stay in southern Sweden. However, it is likely that they’ll want to send you further north, where they have places available.
• No, it is not good for you as an unaccompanied child to hide for six months before seeking asylum - more likely the opposite as you will get older which might make it more difficult for you to get asylum. The idea that hiding for six months will prevent Sweden from transferring you to a country where you left fingerprints, is simply not true.
• Yes, there are certain situations when it may be an advantage to wait before seeking asylum, but for most people it is only a disadvantage, because waiting to apply for asylum may damage your credibility.
• No, every person who has traveled from other EU countries will not be returned. Tens of thousands are allowed to seek asylum in Sweden every year despite the fact that Sweden does not have any external EU borders beyond the airports.
• Yes, as an unaccompanied child, you are granted asylum in Sweden in most cases. The vast majority are allowed to stay.
• No, as an unaccompanied child, you are not put in prison until the day you turn 18. You can stay at a special accommodation for youths or with a family.
• Yes, some asylum seekers are rejected and may become undocumented if they refuse to leave Sweden.
• No, you cannot avoid becoming undocumented by not seeking asylum, since you are then undocumented from the beginning.
• Yes, the Migration Board will provide food or a small amount of money for food and provide accommodation if you need it, though the standard may be low. This is generally an area where Sweden is pretty good, even if the rest of the asylum process leaves a lot to be desired.
• No, you can’t get asylum in Sweden because you get married here or get a baby. Asylum is only about the need for protection. If you have a very close family member with residence in Sweden, you have the right to reunion. But an application for this must be made from abroad, from a country where you have the right to live.
• Yes, Sweden deports people who have been refused asylum, by force if they don’t leave voluntary. The best way to avoid this if you are in need of protection is to be aware of how the asylum procedure works and show your needs in a way that the Swedish authorities understand.

Current situation for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants

Sweden has been quite succesful in portraying itself as a humanist and just country, whereas at the same time pursuing tough and inhumane Migration- and Asylum politics. A good example of this hypocrisy is how Iraqi refugees are handled by the Swedish migration authorities. As early as 2006 Sweden claimed that Iraq was a ”safe country” and signed a repatriation agreement on asylum seekers with Iraq. Sweden has also been leading the way in implementing the common European asylum policy. During the Swedish Presidency in 2009 the Stockholm program was adopted. Sweden has also been working a lot with changing labor directives and visa regulations to facilitate Circular migration.

Sweden and other Nordic countries have benefited considerably from the Dublin convention. Sweden rarely makes exceptions to the convention, and this leads to many adult and minor refugees eventually being sent back to the country of their first asylum application. The only exception to this rule has been for Greece. In the summer of 2010, Sweden stopped sending regufugees back to Greece on the grounds of the inhumane conditions in detention centres there. This however has been the only exception.


The Swedish government made 2009 the ”year of repatriation”. Since then the deportation of asylum seekers has intensified. Border police are working hard to arrest and deport asylum seekers who have been denied asylum or are in the final part of the asylum process. The largest deportation project has been for Iraqi refugees. In the last year Swedish border police have organized, with the support of Frontex, monthly mass deportations of Iraqi refugees alternately from Stockholm and Gothenburg.

According to a police report on deportations dated September 1st 2010, Sweden is the EU country responsible for planning and 1eading deportations. Other countries participating in these deportations are Norway and the UK. During operations 32 persons from Sweden, 12 persons from Norway and 12 persons from the UK were deported.

In the autumn of 2010 the European Court of human rights produced a a directive against the return of Iraqi asylum seekers to Iraq. Those who had been denied asylum could apply for suspension of their repatriation orders at the European Court. This ruling was first ignored by the Swedish Migration Board, but after hard work by the asylum movement (and further representations to the ECHR) some deportations were cancelled.

Sweden has also been very active in repatriating large numbers of Roma people. Roma people coming from Serbia formed the largest group of asylum seekers in Sweden in 2010. Most of them have been living in temporary refugee centres in Sweden, such as campsites. They have received deportation decisions quickly and without the possibility of appeal, even though some of them may well have grounds for asylum.

Sweden also deports Roma people coming from Romania. The numbers being deported have not been very big, but this has created much discussion because they are EU citizens and thus have the right to be in Sweden without a residence permit. This is a new departure that the police deports EU citizens because they are undesirable.

Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors have generated much debate and lot of Swedish people have begun working with them professionally, such as social workers in working in shelters for unaccompanied minors. Sweden has taken a hardline approach in its application of the Dublin convention to both adults and minors. As a result of this Sweden has sent minors back to countries such as Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria and Malta. Minors in these situations have not been entitled to legal representation. Sometimes legal representatives working voluntary have managed to stop repatriations to “first countries” by appealing to the European Court. Currently minors are not sent back to Greece.


In 2010, the effects of the new labour law introduced in 2008 have received some attention. The rules introduced two years ago make it easier employers to hire cheap labor from outside the EU, and so create slave-like working conditions for those coming to work in Sweden. Workers with temporary work permits are entirely dependent on their employers and can be deported any time they are surplus to the employers requirements.

Family connection

In July 2010 new regulations concerning parents who have children in Sweden came into force Persons applying for affiliation and having children are exempted from having to go to their countries of origin to apply for a residence permit. Despite this change in the law families can still be split up during the applying process. Requirements for passports or other identity documents are very stringent. One of the groups most affected by these requirements is Somalis. Since the civil war some 20 years ago Somalia has been one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be in and , s now has reoccurring problems with lawlessness and violence. One result of this is that it is very hard if not impossible for parents to get hold of the documents that the Swedish Migration Board requires. This means that hundreds of Somali parents who have received residence permits in Sweden are not allowed to bring their children. Somali refugee children are then refused residence permits to be reunited with their parents who have a residence permit in Sweden. Minors of all ages are rejected, even when DNA evidence of family ties exist and the children will be left with no other parent.
A Facebook group has been set up to draw attention to this.

Applicants for asylum and residence permits

According to the Swedish Migration Board 29 602 persons applied for asylum in Sweden in 2010.
Most of these came from Serbia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Iran.
The following is a list of the proportions of successful applicants from each country:Asylum was granted to people from the following countries in total:
Afghanistan 55%, Eritrea 67%, Georgia 3%, Iraq 39% Iran 21%, Kazakh 3%, Kyrgyzstan 1%, 4%, Kosovo, Libya, 2%, 1% of Macedonia, Mongolia, 1%, Nigeria 8%, Russia 9 %, Serbian 1%, Somalia 92%, 39% stateless, Syria 2%, Uzbekistan 8%, Belarus 3%.

Campaigns and related struggles

In 2010, various campaigns were initiated or continued by different groups working with asylum and migration in different ways. An extensive campaign for the right to reside for all asylum seekers has not been active during the year. Self-organized groups of Iraqi asylum seekers were formed when the deportations of Iraqis intensified.

Union organizing of undocumented workers

Since 2007 the SAC (syndicalist) union, which is almost the only trade union organizing undocumented workers, have continued this work by using a method called ”the index/register”. The index method is a classic/old syndicalist struggle putting workers in charge of wage setting. The basic principle of this method involves setting a minimum acceptable wage for a particular job, below which no one will accept jobs. If an employer still offers a lower salary they will be subjected to a blockade. During 2010 the SAC has managed to highlight undocumented workers’ conditions in sectors such as hotel and restaurants by strikes, blockades and advocacy work.

Health care for all

Access to health care for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants is different in different parts of Sweden. According to the law, adult asylum seekers are only entitled to free emergency care. Undocumented minors and adults have to pay for all their own health care requirements.
Since 2008, NGOs, churches, trade unions and professional health care associations have been working to get subsidized health care for all asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. There are several voluntary health clinics providing free health care to undocumented migrants.

Campaign: ”Child’s best first”

”Child’s best first” is a campaign initiated in Malmö by asylum rights activists and others as a reaction to the brutality of sending minors back to countries where they risk being jailed or not to having their basic needs met.

The campaign’s goal is for the Childrens Right Convention and the principle of the child’s best interests to prevail over the Dublin Convention. The campaign collects and disseminates information on unaccompanied minors first asylum country, produce guidelines for those working with these children and attempt to form public opinion about unaccompanied minors’ rights. The campaign has received national attention and highlighted the issue in the media.

Social workers’ struggle for unaccompanied minors

Social workers working with unaccompanied minors have formed a network to raise the issue of unaccompanied minors. The network also wants to initiate discussions about private companies and local authorities making large profits from accommodation and activities for unaccompanied minors. In the autumn of 2009 the network of social workers took part in organizing the campaign ”Child’s best first”.

Campaign: ”Ain’t I a Woman” – undocumented women’s right to protection

”Ain’t I a Woman” is an anti-racist feminist campaign that was launched on March 8th by the No one is illegal network. In the struggle to maintain all women’s rights - without distinguishing between race, nationality or citizenship - undocumented women’s situation is often forgotten or made invisible as a result of racist and patriarchal structures. The campaign demand that the foreign national law be clarified so that women affected by violence are considered to be legitimate candidates for asylum. The campaign calls for the Violence Against Women Act to have have precedence over foreign law, so that all women’s rights to protection prevails over the threat of deportation. Another demand is that undocumented women who take part in a juridicial process should be granated temporary residence while the process is underway.

Stop deportations to Iraq

The European Court of human rights has consistently criticized Sweden’s deportation to Iraq, but has not yet decided upon the security situation in Iraq and whether Iraqi refugees should be sent back. This decision may not be made for another year, and in the meantime the Migration authorities here will continue deporting Iraqi refugees. There is a possibility that the asylum seekers who are now forcibly rejected by the Swedish government will have their deportation orders suspended by the ECHR, but despite this they can very well be deported before such orders are made or communicated to them. Many Iraqi asylum seekers and asylum rights activists are working to halt such expulsions through advocacy work and protests