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The Swedish Migration Agency temporarily halts deportations to Ukraine
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Swedish Migration Agency has decided to not carry out deportations to the country. The Agency will also not make decisions on asylum cases that concern applicants from Ukraine.
Following Russia's invasion and the escalated military conflict in Ukraine, the Swedish Migration Agency has decided to suspend enforcement to the country. This means that the Swedish Migration Agency will not enforce rejection or deportation orders for the time being. The Agency will also pause the decision making on cases that concern asylum seekers from Ukraine.
"At the moment, fighting is ongoing in several parts of Ukraine and there is a high risk of civilians being affected by violence from the conflict. It is difficult to get a clear picture of how the situation in Ukraine will develop both in the short and long term. We need to gather more information before a new assessment of the security situation and the need for protection can be made," says Anna Lindblad, Deputy Director of Legal Affairs at the Swedish Migration Agency.
The suspension of enforcement and the suspension of decisions regarding Ukraine apply as of 24 February until further notice. The Swedish Migration Agency will continue to carefully monitor and analyse the ongoing conflict and situation in the country.
Facts: The Swedish Migration Agency’s asylum and returnee cases concerning Ukraine
- Open asylum cases under basic review: 193
- Open cases in court (not just asylum): 74
- Active returnee cases: 122
The EU has activated the Temporary Protection Directive
On Thursday, the EU moved to activate the Temporary Protection Directive. This means that persons from Ukraine will be offered immediate and temporary residence and work permits in EU Member States*.
According to the UNHCR, so far, the war in Ukraine has caused 1 million people to flee to the EU, mainly to the neighbouring countries of Poland, Hungary and Romania. Many are also travelling on to EU countries further west and south. The scale of people who have already left or are expected to leave Ukraine is the reason why the Temporary Protection Directive has been activated – for the first time ever.
No individual application examination is required to grant these residence and work permits. The permit is temporary.
Those covered by the directive are persons who:
- are Ukrainian citizens and have resided in Ukraine sine before 24 February 2022;
- have a residence permit in Ukraine due to status as a refugee or person in need of subsidiary protection;
- family members of the two categories described above.
Upon arrival in Sweden, persons must be identified, registered, photographed and fingerprinted. Normally, this is sufficient to obtain a residence and work permit in accordance with the directive.
Persons who have been granted a residence permit under the Temporary Protection Directive can choose to also apply for asylum at any time.
Although the Council of Ministers has now taken the decision, certain legal questions have yet to be resolved, including regarding the issue of identification. The Swedish Migration Agency is following the matter closely and will update the information on its website on an ongoing basis.
Based on the assessment that the number of people from Ukraine seeking to enter Sweden will increase, the Swedish Migration Agency is now working intensively to increase its housing capacity. In the short term, the capacity will increase to 5,000 places, and in a few months’ time it will rise to about 28,000 places.
It has thus far been possible to handle the increase in the number of asylum seekers from Ukraine within the context of the agency’s ordinary activities.
* Denmark and Ireland are exempt.
About the regulations:
The Temporary Protection Directive sets out minimum standards for providing temporary protection in the event of a massive influx of displaced persons. The directive also provides for measures to be taken on the basis of the principle of solidarity, in order to strike a balance between the efforts of Member States to receive such persons.
According to the Aliens Act, a person who has been granted a residence permit under the directive has the right to apply for a residence permit as a refugee. This means that persons who have temporary protection under the Directive must be given the opportunity to submit an asylum application at any time.
Anyone who receives a residence permit as a mass refugee is covered by the Act on Reception of Asylum Seekers (LMA). The persons covered by the directive have the right to receive housing assistance and a daily allowance from the Swedish Migration Agency.
The Swedish Migration Agency needs the municipalities’ evacuation sites
The Swedish Migration Agency has a major need for more housing places. The reason is the rapid increase in people from Ukraine who are now seeking to come to Sweden to escape the war in their country of origin. According to a request submitted to the county administrative boards, 3,000 new places are needed immediately, as well as an additional 9,000 places as a matter of urgency.
The request to the county administrative boards, which was sent on 8 March, states that the Swedish Migration Agency wishes to use the municipalities’ evacuation sites. The need for space is distributed as follows:
- 4,000 places (of which 1,000 are needed immediately) in Stockholm County, Uppsala County, Södermanland County and Västmanland County,
- 4,000 places (of which 1,000 are needed immediately) in Västra Götaland County, and
- 4,000 places (of which 1,000 are needed immediately) in Skåne County.
These places are distributed according to where the need is greatest. According to the request, 3,000 places are needed immediately and 9,000 are urgently needed.
“Our assessment is that the result of the efforts we’ve already started to procure new housing places is not yielding results fast enough to keep up with the increasing need. That’s why we’re turning to the municipalities for help,” says Magnus Önnestig, Operations Manager at the Swedish Migration Agency.
The Swedish Migration Agency also used municipal evacuation sites during the refugee situation in 2015, among them the one in Sundbyberg. Examples of evacuation sites include campsites, schools and gymnasiums.
The need for evacuation sites is expected to decrease over time as new housing places are directly procured and can be used.
A very strained housing situation
The rapid increase in people applying for protection from the war in Ukraine means that the Swedish Migration Agency’s housing situation is very strained.
“In this situation, our entire society needs to help out. Municipalities, NGOs and civil society in general - your support is needed,” says Mikael Ribbenvik, Director-General of the Swedish Migration Agency.
Thus far, more than two million people have fled Ukraine as a result of the war, most of them to their western and southern neighbours, but also to other European countries. According to UNHCR estimates, about four million people will soon be displaced from Ukraine.
Based on the rapidly escalating situation, on Friday the Swedish Migration Agency submitted a number of scenarios to the Swedish Government regarding how many people from Ukraine will come to Sweden between March and June of this year, and how this will affect the Swedish Migration Agency’s ability to provide housing. The scenarios are based on the UNHCR’s assessment, the size of the Ukrainian diaspora in Sweden, and our geographical proximity to Ukraine.
According to the main scenario, approximately 76,000 people from Ukraine may seek protection in Sweden between March and June.
“At the same time, we must stress that these calculations are characterised by a very high degree of uncertainty. The number may be smaller, but could also be significantly higher,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.
The lower scenario estimates 27,000 people will come to Sweden in the period of March to June, while the higher one puts this number at 212,000.
The Swedish Migration Agency has a mission and responsibility to provide housing to all protection applicants who want it. The calculations show that the Swedish Migration Agency’s housing capacity is insufficient to meet the need, even though the Swedish Migration Agency is already in the process of procuring thousands of housing places.
According to the main scenario, 40,500 housing places are needed by June. According to the more conservative scenario, 8,000 housing places will be needed, while the higher estimate puts this number at 168,000.
“We’re not expanding fast enough. We’re in a critical situation, and the whole of Sweden must chip in to help the people who are now fleeing war-torn Ukraine,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.
Many private individuals have been contacting the Swedish Migration Agency with offers of rooms and other housing places. Unfortunately, the Swedish Migration Agency does not have the possibility to place applicants in the homes of private individuals. However, an applicant can choose to live with a private individual if they make these arrangements on their own.
“The engagement of civil society is very important in this situation, but we encourage the private individuals who have been contacting us to turn to their local aid organisations, instead” Ribbenvik says.
“We’re currently working to figure out how the authorities can better harness the power of civil society’s goodwill,” he continues.
The Swedish Migration Agency has already started procuring housing places and signing supplementary agreements on existing housing. However, it will take time before the agency’s housing capacity can increase. For this reason, the measures already taken do not correspond to the need that has arisen. On 8 March, the Swedish Migration Agency submitted a request to the municipalities through the county administrative boards asking that certain counties provide their evacuation sites as temporary housing.
“We have a good dialogue with the municipalities regarding this effort,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.
On Friday, the Swedish Government tasked the Swedish Migration Agency with the construction and management of temporary housing. The county administrative boards will also inventory their existing premises, facilities and simpler accommodations that can be used as temporary housing in the short- and long-term.
The Swedish Migration Agency has formed a national authority group to streamline collaboration and improve coordination. In addition to the Swedish Migration Agency, the national group also includes the Swedish Police Authority, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and the county administrative boards.
In addition to the strained housing situation, the agency is actively working to expand its registration capacity.
“We don’t currently have time to register everyone on the same day they come to us. This means we are forced to prioritise and mostly choose to register the people who are in need of housing,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.
Number of Ukrainian citizens who applied for protection from 24 February to 10 March: 5,290.
Number of applicants yesterday: 1,046.
Applicants under the Temporary Protection Directive: 2,678.
Good results after campaign to combat organised crime
As a result of a campaign to combat organised crime, in 2021, the Swedish Migration Agency took more decisions to reject and withdraw residence permits. A report that has just been submitted to the government shows that the joint actions taken last year have also led to good results for other Swedish authorities as well.
The Swedish Migration Agency intensified its work to combat organised crime last year. This resulted in the authority taking more decisions to reject or withdraw residence permits on account of abuse of rules. During 2021, the Swedish Migration Agency took 175 administrative actions, for example, withdrawal of permits, which can be compared with 109 the year before.
”We can see that a large proportion of the cases where the Swedish Migration Agency has taken measures is linked to a work permit process but other cases concern identity fraud, human trafficking or human exploitation,” says Abraham Haro, Head of Unit at the Swedish Migration Agency’s National Operative Department.
The report states that the Swedish Migration Agency has been active with regard to providing information to other authorities which has enabled them to take action. The results of the Swedish Migration Agency’s efforts to combat organised crime in 2021 are also evident in a larger geographical area than before. More regions are now able to report results as a consequence of the interventions.
”Today there is greater consensus regarding how we are to tackle this task and this has resulted in improved coordination and follow-up,” says Abraham Haro.
448 years of prison sentences
The Swedish Migration Agency is one of twelve authorities taking part in a campaign to combat organised crime that has been ongoing since 2009. For the Police Authority, the work last year resulted in the imposition of 448 years of prison sentences, which is the highest number since the campaign started. In addition to the imposed prison sentences, a total of 77 years of ban on business activity were imposed.
Other examples of results from last year are the Social Insurance Office’s demands for repayment which amounted to SEK 62 million, and the Swedish Enforcement Authority securing assets worth almost SEK 80 million.
Facts: Swedish authorities’ coordinated actions to combat organised crime
Since 2009, twelve Swedish authorities have been working together with intelligence and operative interventions concerning criminal persons, networks and phenomena in a campaign to combat organised crime. This work is being conducted on behalf of the government.
Twelve authorities are taking part in the campaign: Swedish Public Employment Service, Swedish Economic Crime Authority, Social Insurance Office, Swedish Prison and Probation Service, Swedish Enforcement Agency, Swedish Coast Guard, Swedish Migration Agency, Police Authority, Swedish Tax Agency, Swedish Security Service, Swedish Customs and Swedish Prosecution Authority. Another nine authorities are participating as network authorities.
Reduced need for temporary housing for protection-seekers from Ukraine
There is currently sufficient temporary housing to cover the immediate needs of people seeking protection in Sweden. At the same time, work on the procurement of more long-term accommodation is continuing.
”I am full of praise for all those who have responded quickly and helped to organise housing,” says Magnus Önnestig, Director at the Swedish Migration Agency.
The need for housing is determined by how many people from Ukraine come to Sweden to seek protection and how large a proportion of them need housing organised by the Swedish Migration Agency. At the moment, the Swedish Migration Agency is able to provide places to those in urgent need of temporary housing but the authority is continuing to expand its capacity to meet long-term needs as well.
In early March, the Swedish Migration Agency sent out a request to Sweden’s municipalities, via the County Administrative Boards, regarding “evacuation sites” for temporary housing.
”Many municipalities responded to that request and at short notice organised evacuation sites in, for example, sports halls or at campsites. We are very grateful for the municipalities’ efforts. Without that, we could not have coped,” says Magnus Önnestig.
So far, about 4,500 places at municipal evacuation sites have been activated and made available to the authority.
Housing situation has stabilised
Because the situation has stabilised when compared with the assessment made in early March, the Swedish Migration Agency now sees a reduced need for evacuation sites. Instead of a total of 12,000 places, the need is now for 6,000 places. The Swedish Migration Agency will primarily continue to use the evacuation sites that are already in operation.
”We will still need the municipalities’ evacuation sites in order to meet people’s immediate need for a roof over their heads, but to a lesser extent than we previously estimated. However, we must stress that our assessment may change if the number of protection-seekers changes,” says Magnus Önnestig.
One important reason for the change from 12,000 to 6,000 places is that the Swedish Migration Agency’s efforts to procure housing places have been successful.
”The procurement of housing places is dependent on suppliers showing an interest and offering their services. Up to now, there has been a lot of interest. On the basis of our requirements, procured housing places are more suitable for long-term accommodation,” says Magnus Önnestig.
The County Administrative Boards’ inventory
As the Swedish Migration Agency has adjusted its need for evacuation sites, the County Administrative Boards have recently presented an inventory of the municipalities’ total number of housing places in the short, intermediate and long term. The inventory has been drawn up on behalf of the government and shows that, all in all, the municipalities can provide about 74,000 housing places, both short-term evacuation sites and more long-term forms of accommodation.
”The Swedish Migration Agency has received the inventory which will be an important document for our continued work. Our goal is to have a system that will enable an even distribution all over Sweden,” says Magnus Önnestig.Facts:
- Housing facilities on arrival. When a person applies for protection, the Swedish Migration Agency first registers the application. Sometimes, the applicant will stay for a short time at a facility close to the Swedish Migration Agency’s office. Such facilities are located close to Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. The Swedish Migration Agency rents the facilities and uses its own employees who work on site.
- Housing during the investigation period. After the Swedish Migration Agency has registered an application for protection, a place is provided to those who need it. In the first instance, a person who has applied for protection in Sweden is offered accommodation where he or she is able to cook their own food. The Swedish Migration Agency rents the accommodation and in some cases runs it using their own employees. Some examples are apartments or large buildings where people live in a collective.
- Procured accommodation. If the accommodation that the Swedish Migration Agency rents is insufficient, the authority can procure temporary housing. When procuring housing, the Swedish Migration Agency purchases both the accommodation site itself and the services linked to the operation of the housing. In the first instance, housing of this sort will include facilities so the residents can cook their own food; in the second instance, the authority procures accommodation where the supplier organises food.
- Temporary places in extraordinary situations. If the number of people who are in need of housing exceeds the number of places the Swedish Migration Agency has access to, the municipalities’ “evacuation sites” with temporary housing may be needed to accommodate new arrivals. These are basic forms of accommodation which are intended for a short period of time, for example, at campsites, in schools and sports halls.
- The Swedish Migration Agency procures and manages different forms of accommodation for persons seeking protection. Currently, the Swedish Migration Agency has access to just under 20,000 housing places, distributed among four different forms of accommodation (see below). Under the current plan, by June, the Swedish Migration Agency’s reception system will encompass a total of 70,000 housing places.
New rules for work permits starting 1 June
On 1 June, new rules for labour immigration will come into effect. The new rules include the introduction of a requirement for an employment contract and the obligation of employers to report any deterioration of the terms of employment. The purpose of the changes now being introduced is to counteract the exploitation of workers and to attract and retain international competence.
So far this year, nearly 29,000 people have applied for a work permit in Sweden for the first time.
“Sweden is already an attractive country for people who want to come to Sweden to work. The new rules give the Swedish Migration Agency more tools to continue to promote labour immigration that meets companies’ needs for competence and prevents people from becoming the victims of rogue employers,” says Carl Bexelius, Head of Legal Affairs at the Swedish Migration Agency.
Carl Bexelius emphasises that the new rules are part of several upcoming proposals for changes to the regulations that cover labour immigration. The Government’s investigation into an improved system for combatting labour exploitation, which is expected to come into force in early 2023, will see further tightening aimed at discouraging the exploitation of workers.
More work steps and more complex legislation
The legislative amendments that will enter into force on 1 June, which will require the Swedish Migration Agency to handle more elements to handle in its processing and control, will increase demands on the agency.
“We welcome the new rules and hope that they can improve the conditions for foreign workers in the Swedish labour market. At the same time, we see that these are extensive changes that will require us to navigate more work steps and a more complex legislation. This is likely to affect our processing times for work permits,” says Carl Bexelius.
The Swedish Migration Agency is currently hard at work on the preparations required to start applying the new rules and the increased controls on 1 June.
Any deterioration of working conditions must be reported
One important change is that from 1 June, an employment contract must be attached to the application in order for the Swedish Migration Agency to grant a work permit. The new rules also mean that the Swedish Migration Agency can require that the working conditions be reported and that the employer is obliged to report if the terms of the employment contract become less favourable. An employer who does not report the working conditions at the request of the Swedish Migration Agency may be required to pay a fine.
In addition, the offence of organising people smuggling will be extended to include authorisations issued on the basis of false information.
“With these changes, we will have a greater opportunity to address some of the abuse of the system that occurs, especially in certain industries, while at the same time being able to prevent people from being the victims of rogue employers,” says Carl Bexelius.
Another change is the introduction of a maintenance requirement for family immigration tied to foreign labour. In terms of the maintenance requirement, the rules will be more similar to the rules that apply to other family immigration – but without a requirement for housing of a certain size and standard.
Minor errors do not have to lead to expulsion
At the same time, changes are being made to prevent foreign workers from being expelled due to minor errors. As worded, the rules state that a temporary residence permit for work should not have to be revoked in minor cases of deviations or if a revocation appears to be unreasonable.
“Already today, the practice developed in court gives us some room to deal with minor errors based on an overall assessment, but now we are getting legislation that makes it clear that minor deviations should not have to lead to decisions to expel people who are established in the labour market,” says Carl Bexelius.
Highly qualified people can have up to nine months to look for a job
The changes in the legislation are also aimed at attracting and retaining international competence. A new temporary residence permit valid for up to nine months is being introduced for certain highly qualified people who wish to stay in the country to look for work or start a business here.
“One requirement is that the person has completed studies that correspond to a degree at the advanced level. The person must also have comprehensive health insurance and be able to support themselves,” says Carl Bexelius.
Facts: New rules for work permits
When the legislative amendments enter into force, they will cover not only new applicants, but also those who have already submitted a relevant application and are now awaiting a decision. More than 53,000 applications (including family members) are currently being processed by the Swedish Migration Agency, which in many cases will request supplementary information according to the new requirements.
Among other things, the new legislation means that:
- a new residence permit is introduced for highly qualified and well-educated people who intend to look for work or start a business in Sweden
- an employment contract will be required for a work permit, which means that an offer of employment is no longer sufficient
- a work permit may be granted for a period longer than a total of four years
- certain employers may be required to report any deterioration of the terms of employment
- The Swedish Migration Agency will be able to require an employer to report the working conditions of the person who has been granted a work permit, and an employer who fails to do so must pay a fine
- a maintenance requirement is introduced for family members of workers
- an entry visa can be issued for those who need to travel abroad on a business trip during the processing of an application for an extended work permit (not valid for personal trips)
- the possibility exists to refrain from revoking a work permit if deficiencies and deviations are minor or if it would be unreasonable to revoke the permit
- the offence of organised people smuggling shall also include work permits issued based on false information.
Being a woman from Afghanistan is enough to get protection
The situation for women in Afghanistan has gradually deteriorated since the Taliban movement took power in the country. The Swedish Migration Agency is now tightening up the assessment of cases involving Afghan women.
“Being a woman from Afghanistan is in itself considered to be a sufficient basis for obtaining protection in Sweden,” says Carl Bexelius, Director of Legal Affairs at the Swedish Migration Agency.
Since taking power in Afghanistan, the Taliban movement has imposed numerous rules and regulations that limit the rights of women and girls. The difficult situation has also been reflected in the Swedish Migration Agency’s decisions. Over the past year, approximately 90 percent of the Afghan women who have sought protection in Sweden, and whose cases have been examined on their merits, have been granted a residence permit. Yet until now, the situation has not been such that all women in Afghanistan have been assessed to be at risk of persecution because of their sex.
Women’s rights have been further restricted
Recently, women’s rights and freedom of movement have been further restricted. Among other things, women are now excluded from studying a range of subjects at state universities and from visiting parks, gyms and public bathhouses. In mid-November, the supreme leader of the Afghanistan’s Taliban movement also called for the country’s judges to fully apply Sharia law.
“Women’s and girls’ freedom of movement and other rights have been significantly restricted in Afghanistan, and the situation has recently grown even worse. Today, we see a significant impact on their ability to support themselves, access care and education, and seek protection from violence,” says Carl Bexelius.
Stricter assessment for Afghan women
As a result of the deteriorating situation, the Swedish Migration Agency is tightening up its assessment of asylum cases involving Afghan women. This is being done via a revised judicial position published today.
“We believe that the situation for women in Afghanistan entails a violation of their basic human rights, to the point that it must be considered persecution. Thus, Afghan women should be assessed as refugees and granted a residence permit, regardless of other circumstances,” says Carl Bexelius.
The Swedish Migration Agency’s stricter assessment means that women from Afghanistan who have had their asylum application rejected can apply for and receive a new examination of their case.
New country report for Afghanistan
In conjunction with the revised judicial position, the Swedish Migration Agency is publishing a country report for Afghanistan with a focus on the situation for girls and women. This shows that the conservative and hard-line forces within the Taliban movement have a decisive influence on the country’s development, and there is no sign that this will change anytime soon. The information situation also remains challenging, due in part to censorship and limited media coverage.
The European Asylum Agency EUAA is also working on a new “Country Guidance for Afghanistan”, which will be published early next year. The EUAA’s guides are part of the Swedish Migration Agency’s legal guidance.
Judicial position. Prövning av skyddsbehov m.m. för medborgare från Afghanistan External link, opens in new window. (Examination of the need for protection, etc. for citizens from Afghanistan; text in Swedish)
Country report: Afghanistan: MR-utvecklingen under 2022 med fokus på situationen för kvinnor och flickor samt de facto-statens rättskipning External link, opens in new window. (Human rights development in 2022 with a focus on the situation for women and girls and the de facto state’s administration of justice; text in Swedish)
Facts: Asylum cases involving women from Afghanistan
From August 2021 to November 2022, the Swedish Migration Agency has taken decisions in 451 asylum applications (first-time applications) concerning women from Afghanistan. 402 people, or 89 percent, have had their applications approved. 49 applications have been rejected.