The Swedish Migration Agency answers: How we work to detect security threats
As a result of the deteriorating security situation in the country, security, terror and threats to Sweden have dominated the social debate. Questions have been asked about what the Swedish Migration Agency does and how people with ties to terrorism get to Sweden in the first place. In this part of “The Swedish Migration Agency answers”, we go into more detail about how the agency works to detect and deal with people who may pose a security threat.
The Swedish Migration Agency has an obligation to assist the Swedish Security Service in its work to prevent and detect crimes against Sweden’s security, as well as in terrorism-related matters. Among other things, this means that the Swedish Migration Agency must be on the lookout for possible security threats in cases concerning residence permits and Swedish citizenship, in order to be able to inform the security service. The migration agency and the security service have collaborated very closely for many years and continuously exchange information within the context of the existing regulatory framework.
When information must be exchanged with the Swedish Security Service
Information and indications that may be of interest to the security service can be received by the migration agency in various ways. Such red flags are often raised in the course of the migration agency’s conversations with applicants, but can emerge in other ways too, e.g., via anonymous tips. The agency can also obtain information through submitted documents and passport documents or from staff working in the migration agency’s accommodations. The decisive factor is whether there are indications that the person may pose a threat to Sweden’s security – in which case the case must be presented to the security service. This means that we present the case to get guidance on how to proceed and give the security service the opportunity to decide whether it wants to take a closer look at it.
Some of the presented cases are sent to the security service for referral – in simple terms, this means that the migration agency asks the security service if there are any circumstances that affect the case and that concern Sweden’s security. In some cases, the security service requests the opportunity to make a statement about a case on its own initiative. Once their investigation is complete, they submit a statement to the migration agency. If the security service deems that the individual in question poses a security threat, they issue a so-called “objection” – this means, for example, that they propose that the migration agency reject the application for reasons relating to Sweden’s security.
What is a security case?
It is only when the Swedish Security Service issues a statement in a case and makes a formal objection concerning Sweden’s security or public security that the case formally becomes a security case, in accordance with the provisions of the Aliens Act or the Swedish Citizenship Act. Even if the security service issues a statement in a case and suggests, for example, that a person should not be granted a residence permit or Swedish citizenship, it is the Swedish Migration Agency that ultimately takes an independent decision on the matter. However, the security service is the expert authority for assessing which persons may pose a threat to Sweden’s security. If the migration agency decides to reject an application, the applicant can appeal the decision.
It is important not to confuse security cases with cases involving suspicions of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. The Swedish Migration Agency has an obligation to report such crimes to the police, but this does not necessarily mean that they are security cases.
Qualified security cases
A person who is not a Swedish citizen may be expelled from Sweden in accordance with a special law, the Act concerning Special Controls of Certain Aliens, if the individual in question can be assumed likely to commit or otherwise contribute to a crime under the Terrorist Offences Act, or may constitute a serious threat to Sweden’s security. An expulsion application is filed by the security service, but it is the migration agency that examines and decides on the matter. According to this special legislation, the security service may also take other control measures against the individual.
Special liaison officers and specialists at the Swedish Migration Agency
The Swedish Migration Agency has special regional liaison officers and specialists who work with potential security cases.
The special liaison officers, known as SPoCs (Single Points of Contact), are responsible for regional contact with the Swedish Security Service and support the agency in individual cases, assisting case officers and decision-makers.
The regional specialists deal with cases involving exclusion and threats to public order and security and support the agency’s activities in these matters. Exclusion refers to cases in which a person seeking asylum can be excluded from being considered a refugee or a person eligible for subsidiary protection, if he or she can be suspected of having committed certain types of offences or criminal acts.
How can people who pose a security threat stay in Sweden?
In a separate statement, the Swedish Security Service may recommend that the applicant be refused entry or be expelled. This means they must leave Sweden. If the Swedish Migration Agency makes such a decision in a security case, it is the security service that is responsible for enforcing it. However, the fact that the migration agency issues an expulsion or refusal of entry decision does not always mean that the decision can be implemented – for example, this is impossible if the person could face the death penalty or torture, should they return to their country of origin. This creates a so-called “impediment to enforcement”.
If there are impediments to enforcement in a security case under the Aliens Act, the migration agency will issue a refusal of entry or deportation decision, but will simultaneously grant the applicant a temporary residence permit, which is usually valid for one year. Once that permit expires, the migration agency makes a new assessment of the impediment to enforcement and whether it is still relevant.
How many cases are actually referred to the Swedish Security Service and how many formally become a security case? The statistics and charts provided here offer a clearer picture.
Referrals to the Swedish Security Service
Last year, the Swedish Migration Agency referred 296 residence permit cases and 788 Swedish citizenship cases to the security service. If you only look at residence permit cases, this figure has decreased every year since 2019. See the chart for more figures.
The number of security cases
Last year, the migration agency referred 160 residence permit cases and 490 Swedish citizenship cases to the security service. In 2019, 146 objections concerning citizenship applications were issued; in 2020 that figure was 100, while in 2021 it rose to 182.
Section 5 of the Ordinance (2019:502) with Instructions for the Swedish Migration Agency states that the agency shall assist the Swedish Security Service in its activities aimed at preventing and detecting crimes against national security and in matters relating to terrorism.
Chapter 1, Section 7 of the Aliens Act and Section 27 of the Swedish Citizenship Act describe what constitutes a security case.
Offences that can lead to a person’s exclusion from the right to asylum include war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Swedish Security Service has a mandate from the Government to coordinate the long-term development of counter-terrorism efforts. This work is to be carried out within the context of the Counter-Terrorism Cooperative Council, in which the Swedish Migration Agency is one of the participating authorities.
In November, the Government submitted a proposal that, among other things, it should be possible to revoke a residence permit if it can be assumed that the individual in question will engage in state-run industrial espionage or activities tied to terrorism. The Government also proposes that it should be possible to revoke an alien’s passport for security reasons.
The amendments are proposed to come into force on 1 March 2024.