Protection and asylum

Quota refugees/Resettlement

Each year, 1,700-1,900 refugees from particularly vulnerable refugee camps around the world receive asylum in Sweden. The process surrounding the selection and the organised transfer of the "quota refugees" is called resettlement. The purpose of the resettlement of quota refugees is to support the UN's refugee agency UNHCR in the work with resolving difficult refugee situations. The focus of the selection as well as the actual number of quota places is determined by Sweden's Government. The countries and the refugee camps in question are decided upon in cooperation with UNHCR. The selection takes place partly through delegation selection, which means that the refugees are interviewed on-site in the country where they are located by staff from the Migration Agency. There are currently 19 countries that accept quota refugees on a yearly basis. More on the refugee quota.

Right to protection

The regulations for who is entitled to protection (asylum) in Sweden are found in the Swedish Aliens Act. Both the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention) and the EU's regulations are incorporated in the Swedish legislation. Sweden has signed the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which means that Sweden shall consider each asylum application and provide asylum to those people classified as refugees according to the Convention. A Convention refugee is, according to the Geneva Convention, a person who has reason to fear persecution in their country of origin due to:

  • their race
  • their nationality
  • their religious or political beliefs
  • their gender or sexual orientation
  • that he or she belongs to a particular social group

Under Swedish law, other people aside from refugees under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees have the right to protection and therefore to receive residence permits in Sweden. For example, this includes persons who risk being punished by death or being subjected to torture in their country of origin, or persons who need protection due to serious conflicts in their homeland, or persons who need protection due to an internal or external armed conflict in their country of origin.

Exceptionally distressing circumstances

Persons can be granted a residence permit despite not needing protection. This relates to exceptionally distressing circumstances that are directly linked to the individual's health, adjustment to Sweden and the situation in their country of origin. An overall assessment of such circumstances may result in a residence permit.

The requirements for obtaining a residence permit on the grounds of exceptionally distressing circumstances are strict under the current legislation and a permit is only granted in exceptional situations. In the case of children, the circumstances do not need to be of the same gravity for a residence permit to be granted.

To obtain a residence permit in Sweden on the basis of illness, all these criteria must be met:

  • The illness is life-threatening
  • Treatment and care is not available in the country of origin. The Migration Agency may not, according to current law, take into consideration whether only poor quality care is available or if the care is associated with high costs.
  • The care provided in Sweden must result in a lasting improvement in their health status.

Spring 2011 saw the presentation of the Government's investigation into the Migration Agency's and the courts' application of the Aliens Act's provision regarding "exceptionally distressing circumstances". The evaluation concluded that both the Migration Agency and the courts interpret the provision as the legislature intended, but that the Migration Agency in certain types of cases was somewhat more generous than what the provision allows for.

Furthermore, in 2011, the Alliance Government and the Swedish Green Party entered into a framework agreement on migration policy. In April 2013 the term exceptionally was changed within the framework for the agreement to "particularly distressing circumstances" for children. Under the agreement, the new law will enter into force on 1 July 2014. The agreement means that the current wording in the Aliens Act regarding exceptionally distressing circumstances will be changed to the legally more generous term "particularly distressing circumstances" when it applies to asylum-seeking children.

When a person is denied

A decision to reject an application for asylum means that the Migration Agency has determined that the person does not meet the requirements that the Parliament has determined shall apply in order to be granted asylum in Sweden, and that there are no grounds for granting a residence permit. The Migration Agency's decision can be appealed to administrative courts (migration court) which make final decisions regarding whether or not a person is entitled to asylum in Sweden.

The appeal must have been received by the Migration Agency within 21 days, counting from the day the person received the decision. If you appeal, the Migration Agency will review the case one more time. If the Agency does not amend its decision, the appeal is turned over to the migration court. The migration court can either amend or confirm the Agency's decision.

If the court decides that a person is not entitled to protection in Sweden, the person must leave Sweden.

Impediments to enforcement

In cases where new circumstances have come to light after the final decision has been made by the court, it is possible for the Migration Agency to cancel a refused entry or deportation at the last moment. For example, this may happen if the situation in their country of origin has changed or if the person has become too ill to be able to travel home.

The Migration Agency can examine if there are impediments to enforcing the rejection or deportation on its own initiative or after the person has requested it. If the impediments are medical or practical, the Migration Agency's judgment cannot be appealed. However, if they involve new grounds for protection, a rejection decision by the Agency can be appealed to a migration court.

Last updated: 2017-07-10

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If you wish to ask the Migration Agency a question you can find our contact details under the heading Contact us.