30 January 2018

New position on Iraq

The situation in Iraq has changed in several ways over the past year, not least because IS has lost all of its territorial control. The Swedish Migration Agency has therefore made a new assessment of the security situation in the country.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) no longer has territorial control of any part of Iraq. The security situation has steadily improved in recent months, but IS and other jihadists carry out attacks of an armed confrontational nature on a daily basis.

Following the defeat of IS in Mosul and other strongholds, there is a risk of ethnic and religious tensions in liberated areas, where various groupings and centres of power are trying to reinforce their power and influence. The same applies after the central government’s offensive against Kirkuk. Moreover, tension has increased between the various Kurdish leaders.

Internal armed conflict in six provinces

According to Director of Legal Affairs Fredrik Beijer, six provinces are currently affected by internal armed conflict. The conflicts are not, however, characterised by such general and indiscriminate violence that each and every person has a need for protection. There has been a change here since the previous position, when the Director of Legal Affairs determined that everyone from three of the provinces needed protection. Individual examinations must be carried out in each asylum case by using up-to-date information about the country. In the assessment of the Director of Legal Affairs, the nine southern provinces of Iraq are affected by other severe tensions. The security situation there is unstable and incidents occur.

Mainly stable in the Kurdish provinces

The situation in the three Kurdish provinces (KRI) – Dohuk, Erbil and Suleymania – is characterised by neither internal armed conflict nor other severe tensions, according to the Director of Legal Affairs. The situation is fragile, however, after the referendum and the military operation against Kirkuk and other places. The political tensions between the Kurdish factions and between the KRI and the Baghdad government may affect the region and its inhabitants, including the many internal refugees living there. But the security situation is considered mainly stable.

According to the new judicial position, there are several particularly vulnerable groups in Iraq, for example, family members of persons with connections to IS, converts and women with no male network.

Three million internal refugees

Although the security situation has improved in Iraq, the humanitarian situation is serious. There are currently over three million internal refugees in Iraq. The fragile and insecure situation in the country may lead to changes that may in turn mean that the likelihood of internal displacement will change. There have not been any reports, however, that the offensives against the IS strongholds in recent months and against Kurdish forces in the disputed areas have resulted in any official changes in the provinces’ attitude to internal refugees. It is important, however, to follow the development and take account of any new information on the country when handling each case where internal displacement may be an appropriate alternative. In the first instance, it is the two Kurdish provinces of Erbil and Suleymaniya, plus the cities of Baghdad, Basra and Najaf that may be relevant and sensible alternatives.


Asylum seekers who are guilty of war crimes or other serious crimes are excluded from the right to asylum in accordance with both national and international regulations. In principle, all warring parties in the conflict in Iraq are guilty of crimes, which may mean that some persons are not entitled to protection. Therefore, this must be investigated and assessed in each case.

Difficult for stateless Palestinians to return

It may be difficult for stateless Palestinians who have had their asylum applications refused to return to Iraq. According to the information on the country that is available to the Swedish Migration Agency, however, there are no general practical impediments to enforcement for this group, within the meaning of the law.

Updated information is important

As the situation in Iraq is changing all the time, it is important to have updated information. Lifos - the Swedish Migration Agency’s centre for country information and analysis within the migration area - is closely following the development and publishing updated information on the security situation, territorial control and internal refugees in Iraq. Read more in the Migration Agency’s themed report on the security situation in Iraqexternal link.

20,858 Iraqis applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015. Since then the number of asylum seekers from Iraq has fallen sharply to 2,758 in 2016 and 1,887 the previous year.

Terms that may characterise a conflict according to the Aliens Act

Each and every person is at risk of being killed by the internal armed conflict. When the indiscriminate violence in the armed conflict is so intensive and serious that a person runs a risk of being exposed to the violence simply by remaining in the area. To be granted protection in Sweden, the applicant is only required to show that he or she comes from this area and an alternative to internal displacement is not appropriate.

Internal armed conflict. A situation where the regular forces of a state confront one or more armed groups or where two or more armed groups strike together. An individual examination of the applicant’s reasons for asylum is required for protection to be granted. The individual reasons for asylum do not need to be so serious for the applicant to be granted protection if the security situation is serious in the province.

Other severe tensions. Political instability is rife but the unrest and conflicts in the area find other expressions than through armed confrontation. An individual examination of the applicants’ reasons for asylum is required for protection to be granted.