Four authorities have the power to make decisions on detention in Sweden. The police authority can make such a decision before asylum seekers have their asylum case registered at the Migration Agency and also in cases where aliens are present illegally in the country or have been expelled on grounds of criminality and served their sentence but are still in the country.1 The police are also responsible for taking decisions on detention when the Migration Agency has handed over the responsibility for a person’s case to them. This happens when the Migration Agency no longer considers that the persons will leave the country on a voluntary basis even though their appeal has been rejected. Normally a rejected asylum seeker has 14 calendar days to leave the country voluntarily, although this may in practice be extended if the circumstances warrant this.

The Migration Agency can take decisions on detention as long as they are handling the asylum case or an application for a residence permit.2 The Migration Courts can make decisions on detention while dealing with an appeal. If they make a decision on detention as the first instance the decision can be appealed to the Migration Court of Appeal.

If a case is being dealt with by the government, e.g. in cases regarding expulsion due to criminality or to a security threat, it is the responsible Secretary of State who decides whether an alien should be detained or not.3 The police are also allowed to place an alien in detention, even if this is not their formal responsibility, when circumstances so require e.g. if there is a clear risk of an alien disappearing once apprehended. Even the coastguards and customs officers can detain an alien if there is a danger that the alien will go into hiding. However the detention must be reported immediately to the police, who then take over responsibility.4

In the current system, the officers of the Migration Agency are not allowed to use coercive force to implement a decision. They must therefore call on the police for assistance to for example escort an alien to or from the detention centre or to enforce and expulsion order when a detainee refuses to comply.5

In 2016 3,714 persons were detained, including: 108 children of which 50 girls and 58 boys; 3,606 adults of which 419 women and 3,187 men. The average period of detention for children was 3.9 days. For adults, it was 27.3 days and for the whole group 26.6 days. This illustrates a steady rise in the use of detention in Sweden:

Detentions ordered in Sweden: 2011-2016















In Sweden, there are five detention centres (Gävle, Märsta, Flen, Kållered and Åstorp) with a total of nine units and an overall capacity of 357persons.6

The number of persons detained because of inability to identify themselves is minimal, whereas the number of Dublin detainees who may still have an appeal pending is a little higher. In practice many applicants in Dublin procedures abscond before an attempt to remove takes place.

There have been no reports of overcrowding in the detention centres. The average use of capacity was 89% during 2016.

  • 1. Ch. 10, Section 13 Aliens Act.
  • 2. Ch. 10, Section 14 Aliens Act.
  • 3. Ch. 10, Section 15 Aliens Act.
  • 4. Ch. 10, Section 17 Aliens Act.
  • 5. Ch. 12, Section 14 Aliens Act.
  • 6. Migration Agency, Annual Report 2016.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti