Sweden - Country Report: Legal and Policy Framework of Migration Governance

Mudar Shakra
, Jenni Wirman, Justyna Szalanska, and Andreas Önver Cetrez | Uppsala University

Executive summary

The report aims to present the legal and policy framework of migration in Sweden in a period between 2011 and 2017. In the mentioned time Sweden witnessed a U-turn in migration governance linked with an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers in 2015 when more than 160,000 asylum applications were submitted, and introduction of a new temporary law on asylum in 2016. Since 2016, Sweden has been reshaping its image of a country open to refugees through new restrictive legislative measures which are a response not only to the mass migration, but also to lack of solidarity within the European Union on the matter of refugees acceptance.

Although the issue of asylum provokes the biggest controversies, in fact the highest number of migrants who received a residency permit in Sweden in the given period – 286,578 - are those who applied for the residency due to family reunification. Residency due to asylum was granted to 239,518 people, with the peak in 2016 when 71,571 such permits were given.

After the World War II Sweden, due to its level of economic development, the state model (welfare state) and the political system (established democracy), has become a desired destination for migrants and refugees. Until 2017 the biggest migratory group in the country were Finns, who were then replaced by Syrian refugees. This change is directly linked with the Syrian Civil War and the influx of Syrian asylum seekers to Sweden.

The constitutional entrenchment of the asylum principle in Sweden is derived from its international and European commitments, namely the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the 1951 Geneva Convention for Refugees and other international human rights instruments. Despite its absence in the Swedish Constitution, responsibility to protect principle was transposed to the Swedish law through the Aliens Act and other related laws.

The migration governance system in Sweden consists of several legislative acts dealing with different aspects of migration and asylum, such as asylum judicial procedures, reception, detention, health case, allowance, citizenship and boarders control. The acts are as follows: Aliens Act (2005), Aliens Act Ordinance (2006), Law on Temporary Limitations to The Possibility of Being Granted a Residence Permit in Sweden (2016), Law on Reception of Asylum Seekers and Others (1994), Amendment to the law on Reception of Asylum Seekers and Others (2016), and Ordinance on the Act on Reception of Asylum Seekers (1994). Additionally, an integral part of the system are different European Union directives on migration.

Considering migration management structure, the responsibility to enact and coordinate the various judicial, legislative, administrative and financial aspects related to migration and asylum rests in hands of the Ministry of Justice and is performed through its three divisions: Division for Migration Law (L7), Division for Migration and Asylum Policy (EMA) and Division for Management of Migration Affairs (SIM). Under the Ministry of Justice operates also the Swedish Migration Agency of which main tasks are to evaluate and decide on applications from people who want to seek a temporary residence permit, acquire permanent residence or citizenship in Sweden.

After the record number of migrants coming to Sweden in 2015 and, as a result, the highest number of application for residence permit in the same year, the government introduced in 2016 restrictions to granting residence permit. Some of the main changes were to take away the possibility of permanent residency permit and tightened the family reunification possibility in order to reach the minimum level in comparison to an international and European level or to what the family reunification process in Sweden used to be before July 2016.


HORIZON 2020 – RESPOND (770564) – SWEDEN

In the section ‘Legal Status of Foreigners’ the report presents the legal process of granting an asylum in Sweden, including requirements for submitting an application, steps of the procedures of application, registration and reception, identification process of an asylum seeker, rights to information and legal counselling, and other rights given to an asylum seeker such as access to housing, labour market, professional trainings and health care system. Once being granted international protection status, a refugee in Sweden is entitled to almost the same rights and duties as Swedish nationals, except from right to vote in the national and local elections. In addition, reports aims to illustrate the legal situation of irregular (undocumented) migrants and unaccompanied foreigner minors. Sweden acknowledges rights of irregular migrants as the ones derived from the human rights regime, ex. United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international conventions. With regard to unaccompanied foreigner minors, they need to prove their age with documents or medical age assessment is conducted.

With respect to refugee crisis driven reforms, the government presented the following proposals: a prolongation of the temporary asylum law until July 2019, a revision of the asylum seekers right to arrange an own housing within the asylum seekers reception act, and a possibility for more unaccompanied minors to receive a temporary residence permit on the study ground. The projected changes herald the direction of more restrictive asylum policy, and as a result Sweden may lose its title of a country open to asylum seekers and forced migrants in light of the direction for the on-going legal and political changes.

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