6 March 2017

Increased refugee quota with a focus on Syria

Not since the Balkan wars in the 1990's has the Swedish refugee quota been comprised of as many places as this year – 3,400. About half of them are earmarked for people displaced by the war in Syria. Also in East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Southwest Asia, large groups will be selected.

In Jordan, there is a refugee camp called Zaatari, for Syrian refugees. Photo: © UNHCR/Ivor Pickett

In Jordan, there is a refugee camp called Zaatari, for Syrian refugees. Photo: © UNHCR/Ivor Pickett.

The Swedish refugee quota was established after World War II, to provide protection to those who where unable to find it themselves. And it still has more or less the same purpose. Sweden's refugee quota provides support to both vulnerable individuals and to host countries with large refugee populations.

With the refugee quota, the most exposed and vulnerable refugees who are outside their homeland will be able to come to Sweden in an orderly manner. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) presents refugees who are in need of protection in a third country, to the Swedish Migration Agency. The agency then evaluates and decides who gets to come to Sweden. These refugees receive information about Sweden prior to the departure, and when they arrive to Sweden, a municipality will have prepared the accommodation and a reception for them.

The migration policy agreement signed in the fall of 2015 included, among other things, the goal that Sweden will gradually increase the number of quota refugees to 5,000 during the Government's term of office. This year marks the first step towards this goal, increasing last year's capacity from1,900 to 3,400.

– Considering how many people are being displaced in the world today, an increase in the refugee quota is of course welcomed. Increased resettlement can send signals to individuals that there are safe and legal ways to receive protection within the EU, which in the long term can alleviate the situation in the Mediterranean, says Oskar Ekblad, Head of Section at the Swedish Migration Agency.

How the 3,400 places are allocated

Most of the places will be used for selection of refugees in the Middle East and North Africa, who have fled the war in Syria. A large number of people will also be selected in Africa, including the Horn of Africa. Following a proposal from the UNHCR, the number of Swedish places for urgent and prioritized cases has also increased.

 Sweden's refugee quota 2017

 North Africa and Middle East incl. Turkey (mainly Syrians


East Africa and the Horn of Africa (mainly Somalis, Eritreans, Congolese and Ethiopians)


Southwest Asia (Afghans)


Urgent and prioritized cases globally (various nationalities)




The war in Syria started with disturbances in the spring of 2011 and resulted in the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time. The UNHCR estimates that Syrians today make up 40 percent of the World's 1.2 million refugees who need to be resettled in other countries. The organization has proposed that Sweden in 2017 should primarily focus on selecting Syrians in the areas surrounding Syria, which is reflected in the allocation of the places in this year's refugee quota. 1,770 refugees, mainly Syrians, will be selected from the Middle East (including Turkey) and North Africa.

– The Swedish Migration Agency is already working to carry out the selection within the extended refugee quota. Currently we are working together with the UNHCR in the areas surrounding Syria, to investigate and select the persons who will come to Sweden this year, says Oskar Ekblad.

Great need in Africa

There is also a great need for resettlement in Africa. Kenya, for example, is the location of Dadaab, the World's largest refugee camp, and in Sudan there are about 242,000 refugees, mainly Eritreans and Ethiopians, many in camps near the border with Eritrea.

The refugee situation in the Great Lakes region of East Africa is severe and is greatly affected by the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Half of the 400,000 refugees who are in neighbouring Uganda come from there. The majority are children.

This year's Swedish selection of 830 quota refugees from East Africa and the Horn of Africa will include people of different nationalities, mainly Somalis, Eritreans and Congolese.

Afghan refugees in Iran

Even in Southwest Asia, the need for resettlement is high, especially due to the displacement of people from Afghanistan that has been going on for many years. The UNHCR has emphasized that it is important that Sweden receives Afghan quota refugees from Iran, even though Pakistan has also sheltered many displaced Afghans. According to the UNHCR there are 82,000 Afghans in Iran in need of resettlement. The people concerned are almost exclusively born and raised in Iran. There, the Swedish Migration Agency will select 200 Afghan quota refugees this year.

600 places for urgent and prioritized cases

Based on a UNHCR suggestion, 600 places have been set aside for refugees with urgent and prioritized cases. The number of places for urgent resettlement has declined globally, and more states earmark their places for specific host countries or groups. Sweden's urgent places make up to approximately half of all the available places in the world. Through them, Sweden contributes to evacuating some of the world's most vulnerable refugees, wherever they are.

The Swedish Migration Agency has long been working to provide selected quota refugees with preparatory information about Sweden. The picture is from one of the world's largest refugee camps – Dadaab in Kenya. © Swedish Migration Agency.

The Swedish Migration Agency has long been working to provide selected quota refugees with preparatory information about Sweden. The picture is from one of the world's largest refugee camps – Dadaab in Kenya. © Swedish Migration Agency.

Two ways of selection

The selection of quota refugees is done in two ways. The Swedish Migration Agency can examine the cases by means of written documentation from the UNHCR, which is called dossier selection. Or, an expatriate delegation examines the refugees' need for protection on site, so-called selection mission. It is always the UNHCR that presents the cases that the Swedish Migration Agency investigates and examines.

During 2017, the proportion of selection missions will increase. This is because many refugees come from complicated conflicts, which means that the Swedish Migration Agency needs to pay extra attention to various safety aspects. Spoken interviews are a great help during the selection missions. In countries where the security situation is difficult or uncertain, it is generally appropriate for the Swedish Migration Agency to examine cases with the help of dossiers.

Since many years back, the Swedish Migration Agency has been working on site to prepare selected quota refugees for their journey to Sweden and life here. This year, the government has decided that all quota refugees should get some sort of preparatory information.