12 January 2016

Nearly 163,000 people sought asylum in Sweden in 2015

Never before have Sweden received such a large number of asylum seekers in one year –163,000. That is almost double the amount that came in 1992 during the Balkan crisis. “It has been a very difficult autumn where our ability to handle the task has been tested to the absolute limit. We managed it thanks to magnificent efforts by our co-workers”, says the Swedish Migration Agency's Director-General Anders Danielsson.

Early on in the year as many as 4,000–5,000 asylum seekers came to Sweden each month. A dramatic increase began in late summer – from 6,619 in June to six times that amount in October: 39,196. October will now go down in history as the month Sweden received the biggest amount of asylum seekers ever.

Sweden also received many asylum seekers during the Balkan wars, the record being 14,106 in July 1992. That year a total of 84,000 people sought asylum in Sweden.

Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians were the three most common nationalities among asylum seekers in 2015. This shows how many sought asylum each month up until 28 December.

The increase in the numbers of asylum seekers in 2015 occurred gradually. First, an increasing number of Syrians started seeking asylum here and in October Sweden received nearly 13,000 Syrians. They were the largest national group over the year as a whole, about 51,000 people in total.

Towards the end of summer there was a significant increase in the number of Iraqis seeking asylum. Later there was also an increase in Afghans seeking asylum in Sweden – in November there were nearly 14,700.

Approximately 35,400 unaccompanied minors

In 2015 significantly more unaccompanied minors sought asylum in Sweden compared to the previous year. The numbers went up from 7,049 to 35,369. At the same time their portion of the total number of asylum seekers increased – from a tenth to a fifth. Of all the unaccompanied minors, 66 per cent were Afghans.

In the first prognosis of the year, the Migration Agency estimated that Sweden would receive 7,800 unaccompanied minors in 2015. The fact that 35,400 arrived meant a great challenge for all municipalities in the country.

Many challenges in 2016

In the past year, the Migration Agency has focussed its resources on registering newly arrived asylum seekers and finding beds for them. It has therefore not been possible to examine asylum cases at the preferable speed.

“Waiting times for asylum seekers increased gradually during 2015. In 2016 we will put a lot of effort into reducing them. Another challenge will be to adapt our operations in line with the temporary legislation that the Government has announced”, says Anders Danielsson.

At new year the Migration Agency had about 181,890 people registered in its reception system, of which 101,100 are staying at the Agency's asylum seeker accommodation. Far greater numbers than ever before. Procuring more asylum seeker accommodation that will function in the long-term will also be an important task for the coming year.

More asylum seekers in our neighbouring countries as well

The number of asylum seekers significantly increased in 2015 in Norway and Finland too, but starting from a lower level. The increase in Denmark was modest. The statistics for 2015 is still preliminary and only include the January-November period. For this reason, the 2014 numbers are based on the corresponding period.

The number of asylum seekers in Norway increased from 10,702 to 30,101. The three largest groups come from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.

In Finland, the number of asylum seekers increased from 3,247 to 30,625. The largest groups come from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The number of asylum seekers in Denmark increased from 14,046 to 18,505. The largest groups come from Syria, Eritrea and Iran.

A total number of approximately109,000 residence permits

During the past year a total of 109,235 persons received residence permits for various reasons such as studies, family connections, protection and work. The number was more or less the same as in 2014. Many of the permits where time limited, e.g. work permits for temporary employment and permits due to a newly established relationship. 

Family connection the most common reason for residence permits

To reunite with family members remains the most common reason for receiving a residence permit, just like previous years. Slightly more than 43,000 family members received residence permits in 2015, about as many as the previous year. The largest groups come from Syria, India and Iraq.

Approximately 35,000 asylum seekers received a residence permit in 2015

In total nearly 35,000* asylum seekers were given permanent residence permits in 2015. The number was more or less the same as the previous year. However, the majority of asylum applications submitted in 2015 have not yet been processed. The three largest groups in 2015 come from Syria, Eritrea or were state-less.

*This figure does not include the year's slightly less than 1,900 quota refugees.

A slight increase in labour immigration

The labour immigration 2015 increased somewhat compared to the previous year, from about 15,800 approved permits to almost 17,000. The largest groups of employees come from Thailand, India and China. The most common categories were berry pickers, IT specialists, civil engineers and restaurant staff.

Approximately 9,400 students received a residence permit

About as many students received residence permits in 2015 as compared to the previous year. In 2015 this figure was 9,410 individuals. The largest groups come from China, India and the USA.