Caritas Sweden

4 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 a 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. expulsion due to criminality or to a security threat, it is the Minister responsible who decides on 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 2015, 3,524 persons were detained of whom 63 were children in families and 17 unaccompanied minors. Available statistics for this report do not indicate the grounds for detention. In 2014, the number of asylum seekers and persons with enforceable return decisions detained was 3,201. This reflects a rise in the number detained, as it detained 2,893 third-country nationals in 2013, while 2,564 were detained in 2012 and 1,941 in 2011.6

In Sweden, there are 5 detention centres (Gävle, Märsta, Flen, Kållered and Åstorp) with a total of 9 units and an overall capacity of 255 persons.7

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.

In 2013, out of a total 2,893 third-country nationals detained, only 81 persons were asylum seekers in the regular procedure and 167 were asylum seekers under the accelerated procedure. 1,239 persons were detained for the purposes of Dublin procedures that year.8

There have been no reports of overcrowding in the detention centres. The detention centre in Märsta, near Arlanda airport, has the highest rate of use with over 90% of capacity utilised over the year (72% was the national average in 2012).The detention centres in Flen and Gävle are used most frequently if there is insufficient capacity in Märsta.

  • 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. EMN, The use of detention and alternatives to detention in the context of immigration policies in Sweden, Report EMN Sweden 2014:1, available at:, 14.
  • 7. Ibid, 18.
  • 8. Ibid, 14.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detention and content of international protection across 20 countries.