Highest number of asylum decisions to date
In 2016, 111,979 people learned the outcome of their application for asylum. This is the highest number of asylum decisions ever made by the Swedish Migration Agency in one year. This concerted effort was necessitated by the high number of asylum seekers – some 163,000 – arriving in 2015. In 2016, a total of 28,939 people applied for asylum in Sweden.
The high number of asylum seekers in 2015 meant the Agency had to be allocated additional resources and also transfer some of its resources internally. The aim was to provide as many people as possible with a decision on their asylum application without compromising the due legal process.
As a result, the Agency was able to make a total of 111,979 decisions on asylum cases during the year. This is more than the Agency has previously made in one year, and is also double the number of asylum decisions made last year.
“We have increased our capacity, and it is very satisfying to be in a position to let so many people have a decision about their asylum application”, says Mikael Ribbenvik, Acting Director-General. “However, there are still more than 70,000 asylum seekers awaiting a decision. Our target is to ensure that those people who have now been waiting a long time get a decision no later than summer 2017.”
No autumn increase in asylum seekers
In previous years, the number of asylum seekers has fluctuated during the year but with a marked increase during the autumn. 2016 saw neither the expected fluctuation nor additional numbers in autumn. Instead there have been 400-600 applications for asylum each week, and in total 28,939 people sought asylum in Sweden during the past year, the lowest figure since 2009.
The decrease is partly due to changes in Swedish legislation, which have made it more difficult for asylum seekers to join their families and to get a permanent residence permit. Additional reasons for the decrease are the refugee agreement between Turkey and the EU and increased difficulty for asylum seekers in getting across European borders; these factors also explain why the number of asylum seekers has not fluctuated during the year.
Fewer people in the reception system
As at 31 December, there were 122,708 people registered in the Migration Agency’s reception system, which is 59,182 fewer than at the same time the previous year. Of the 122,708, 63,063 were registered in temporary accommodation for asylum seekers. A total of 35,449 people were registered in private accommodation. Of the remaining group, many were unaccompanied children seeking asylum whose housing is provided by municipalities.
One of the Agency’s challenges in 2017 is to continue to adjust the housing system to meet the demand and to create a stable system of accommodation for asylum seekers. Privately-contracted accommodation began to be decommissioned in early summer 2016, and there are plans to decommission a further 23,500 places during spring 2017, with the aim of returning to a stable, long-term system of housing provision.
Plans to shorten processing times for other permits
The Agency’s major focus on asylum applications in 2016 has had a negative impact on processing times for other types of permit.
“One of our important targets in 2017 is to shorten the processing time for applications for residence permits for family members and for those who wish to work or study in Sweden,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.