Asylum procedure, including legal representation, appeal procedure, documents issued to claimants, processing times, approval rates for Iraqi claimants [SWE42566.E]

Asylum Procedure

The Swedish Migration Board is the government agency responsible for asylum claims in Sweden (Sweden n.d.b; ibid. Apr. 2002, 7; COE 15 Apr. 2003) and all asylum applications are submitted to it directly (USCR June 2002). The Swedish Aliens Act, the Aliens Ordinance and the Reception of Asylum Seekers and Others Act govern Swedish asylum policy (COE 15 Apr. 2003). This legislation is based on the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol (UN 1 May 2000; Sweden Apr. 2002, 3; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004), as well as the 2003 Dublin Convention (UN May 2000). The Swedish Aliens Act defines a refugee as

an alien who is outside the country of his nationality owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or religious or political opinion, and who is unable or owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. This applies irrespective of whether persecution is at the hands of the authorities of the country or [if] these [authorities] cannot be expected to offer protection against persecution by private individuals.
A stateless person who for the same reason is outside the country of his former habitual residence and who is unable or owing to such fear is unwilling to return to that country, shall also be deemed a refugee (Sweden Apr. 2002, 4).

The Swedish Migration Board renders its decisions on asylum applications largely in accordance with the Aliens Act and the Aliens Ordinance (Sweden n.d.b). Applicants with inadequate grounds for asylum are refused protection and must leave Sweden according to a deportation order (USCR June 2002).

Decision makers may grant residence permits to persons who do not meet the United Nations Convention definition of a refugee (AP 10 Jun. 2003; USCR Jun. 2002; Sweden Apr. 2002, 3). Such persons include those who have a well-founded fear of inhumane treatment, such as torture, based on their gender or sexual orientation or otherwise in their country of origin, and those who are fleeing an environmental disaster or armed conflict (USCR 2003; AP 10 Jun. 2003; USCR Jun. 2002; Sweden Apr. 2002, 3). The Swedish Aliens Act does not allow decision makers to consider gender or sexual orientation within the context of social groups seeking refugee status and therefore asylum applicants fleeing for reasons of gender or sexual orientation do not receive Convention refugee status in Sweden (USCR 2003). The Swedish Migration Board may also grant protection on humanitarian grounds to persons who do not fulfill the definition of refugee, such as the infirm, those with strong ties to Sweden, and unaccompanied minors (ibid.). The Swedish Migration Board may also grant persons not determined to be refugees temporary (two years') protection (ibid.; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004), during which time they are allowed to work and have their immediate families with them in Sweden (USCR 2003).

In February 2002, the Swedish Migration Board announced that it was safe for Iraqi asylum seekers to return to Iraq (AFP 25 Feb. 2004) and in April 2002, the Swedish government adopted a "stricter" asylum policy than had previously existed for Kurds from northern Iraq (AP 11 Apr. 2002; AIW 10 Apr. 2002). In March 2003, Amnesty International criticized the Swedish Migration Board's decision to put Iraqi asylum requests in Sweden on hold until the outcome of the war in Iraq is known (AFP 30 Mar. 2003).

Documents Issued to Asylum Claimants

In 18 May 2004 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the secretary general of Swedish Refugee Aid stated that after an asylum seeker submits an application for asylum in Sweden he or she is issued a Law on Reception of Asylum Seekers (LMA) card, which is valid for three months and can be renewed up until such time as a decision on the asylum application has been made. The secretary general explained that the LMA card can be used to access health services and economic assistance, but is not a valid identity card; a senior advisor at the Swedish Migration Board corroborated this information (Sweden 18 May 2004). In an 18 May 2004 telephone interview, a senior advisor at the Swedish Migration Board also stated that asylum seekers in Sweden are issued an LMA card, which can be used to access social services, and added that although there is a photo of the applicant on the card, the identity of the applicant is not established before issuing the card and it is therefore not recognized as a valid piece of identification.

Legal Representation

If the Swedish Migration Board foresees that an asylum seeker's claim may be refused, the claimant will be offered the services of legal counsel at the expense of the Swedish Migration Board (Sweden 30 Oct. 2003; ibid. Apr. 2002, 7; USCR 2003). Asylum seekers in Sweden may also receive legal support from nongovernmental organizations including the Swedish Refugee Advice Center (ibid.).

Processing Times

Although there is no statutory time period for asylum applications to be processed in Sweden, the Swedish Migration Board on average renders decisions on asylum applications within six months of the application submission date (Sweden n.d.b). However, in practice, the processing time can sometimes extend to over a year if there are large numbers of asylum seekers who arrive in a short time span, or if their cases are complicated (ibid. 30 Oct. 2003). If applicants submit new information or if they must obtain documentation to prove their identity, the processing of the case can also be delayed (ibid. n.d.b). At the beginning of 2000, the average processing time was 15 months (ibid.). Country Reports 2003 and Country Reports 2002 stated that some asylum applications remained undecided "for long periods of time" (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2d; 31 Mar. 2003, Sec. 2d).

Approval Rates for Claimants from Iraq

In 2003, 31,355 persons requested asylum in Sweden (Sweden 15 Mar. 2004c) and claimants from Iraq were the fourth largest group at 2,700 claimants (ibid.; Sweden 15 Mar. 2004a; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2d; UN 24 Feb. 2004, 13). Of those 2,700 applicants, 1,283 were granted residence permits as convention refugees, de facto refugees in need of protection or refugees on humanitarian grounds, an approval rate of approximately 45 per cent (Sweden 15 Mar. 2004a; ibid. 2004b). On the whole, the Swedish government approved 6,460 asylum applications in 2003, an approval rate of approximately 20 per cent (Sweden 15 Mar. 2004b; ibid 2004a; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2d).

In 2002, 33,020 claimants sought asylum in Sweden (UN 24 Feb. 2004, 7). Claimants from Iraq were the third largest group with a total of 5,446 applicants seeking asylum in 2002 (Sweden 15 Mar. 2004b). Of these 3,358, or approximately 60 per cent were granted residence permits as Convention refugees, de facto refugees in need of protection or refugees on humanitarian grounds (ibid.). On the whole, the Swedish government approved close to 25 per cent of asylum applications in 2002 (Country Reports 2002 31 Mar. 2003, Sec. 2d).

According to documentation from the Swedish Migration Board, there is no upper limit on the number of people that may be granted refugee protection in Sweden and Swedish government documentation states that about 30 per cent of applicants are refused entry to Sweden (Sweden n.d.b). However, Associated Press reported that over 60 per cent of applications reviewed in 2002 were rejected (AP 4 Jan. 2003) and Country Reports 2003 cited that in 2003, the Swedish government rejected approximately 80 per cent of the filed asylum applications (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2d).

Still other information provided by the US Committee for Refugees in 2003 states that in 2002, the Swedish Migration Board recognized approximately one per cent of 23,600 claimants as refugees under the UN Convention on refugees, granted residence permits on protection grounds to approximately four per cent of applicants and residence permits on humanitarian grounds to approximately twenty-one per cent of claimants (USCR 2003). Furthermore, the US Committee for Refugees (USCR) reports that in 2002, 78 per cent of asylum claims lodged for any form of protection in Sweden were rejected (ibid.).

Regarding asylum claims that have been rejected in Sweden, both the Council of Europe and the United Nations Committee Against Torture reported that some asylum applicants in Sweden have been deported to countries unknown to them due to difficulties in establishing their national identity (COE 15 Apr. 2003; UN 6 Jun. 2002). The Council of Europe has reported that officers have used "excessive" force during the expulsion of some foreign nationals (COE 15 Apr. 2003). Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also report that two claims for asylum in Sweden were rejected due to alleged connections to groups responsible for terrorism in an "unfair procedure" and the decision was based on undisclosed evidence provided by the Swedish Security Police, which was not available to the claimants or their legal counsel (AI May 2002; HRW 17 Dec. 2003).

Appeal Procedure

Unsuccessful asylum seekers are entitled to lodge an appeal with the Aliens Appeals Board (AAB) (Sweden 30 Oct. 2003; COE 15 Apr. 2003; USCR Jun. 2002; Sweden Apr. 2002, 9; ibid. n.d.a). The AAB, established on 1 January 1992, is an administrative agency headed by a director general, with powers similar to a court of law (ibid.). It applies current relevant legislation, including the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), the Aliens Act (1989), the Swedish Citizenship Act (1950), the Administrative Procedure Act (1986) and the Official Secrets Act (1980) (ibid.)

Case officers examine cases that arrive at the AAB, obtain additional information where necessary and subsequently present the case to a judge (ibid.). Judges make the decision alone if the case is straightforward, but if the case is more complicated a judge and two members of the board make the decision (ibid.). Cases are considered on an individual basis and if the applicant's grounds for asylum are inadequate, the appeal is rejected and the applicant is expected to leave Sweden, but can receive assistance from the Swedish Migration Board in order to do so (ibid. 30 Oct. 2003). The AAB issues a deportation order along with any negative decision (USCR Jun. 2002). Decisions of the AAB cannot be appealed (Sweden n.d.a).

A presentation prepared by the AAB stated that an appellant is entitled to public counsel "in some cases," and in these cases, which were not specified, the government of Sweden takes care of the legal expenses (Sweden n.d.a).

In 2002, the AAB made decisions on approximately 12 000 appeals: 220 persons were granted refugee status; 2,100 persons were given residence permits on humanitarian or other grounds; and approximately 10,000 appeals were rejected (USCR 2003). Statistics released by the AAB in 2002 on successful appeals are inconsistent with those presented by USCR and indicate that on average nine per cent of appeals are granted (Sweden n.d.a). No information on appeals by Iraqi claimants could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to Country Reports 2003 and Country Reports 2002, the asylum application appeal process for any refugee protection case in Sweden may go on for several years, although in 2002 and 2003, there were few such cases (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 2d; 31 Mar. 2004, Sec. 2d).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 25 February 2004. "Sweden to Send Iraqi Asylum Seekers Packing." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

______. 30 March 2003. "Amnesty International Slams Swedish Decision to Freeze Iraqi Asylum Cases." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

Amnesty International (AI). May 2002. Amnesty International Report 2002: Sweden. [Accessed 12 May 2004]

Asia Intelligence Wire (AIW). 10 April 2002. "Sweden Will Recommence Deporting Iraqi Asylum Seekers." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

Associated Press (AP). 10 June 2003. "In Sweden a Growing Tide Against Admitting More Refugees." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

______. 4 January 2003. "Sweden Sees Sharp Rise in Asylum-Seekers." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

______. 11 April 2002. "Sweden Adopts Stricter Asylum Policy for Iraqi Kurds." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

Council of Europe (COE). 15 April 2003. European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance. Second Report on Sweden. [Accessed 18 May 2004]

Country Reports on Human Right Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. [Accessed 11 May 2004]

Country Reports on Human Right Practices for 2003. 31 March 2003. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. [Accessed 25 May 2004]

Human Rights Watch. 17 December 2003. "Letter to Swedish Government on Behalf of Hanan Attia." [Accessed 11 May 2004]

Sweden. 18 May 2004. Swedish Migration Board. Telephone interview with Senior Advisor.

______. 15 March 2004a. Swedish Migration Board. "Asylum Seekers to Sweden During 1984-2003." [Accessed 14 May 2004]

______. 15 March 2004b. Swedish Migration Board. "Residence Permits 1980-2003 to Convention Refugees, De Facto Refugees, in Need of Protection and Refugees by Humanitarian Grounds." [Accessed 14 May 2004]

______. 15 March 2004c. Swedish Migration Board. "Statistics on our Activities." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

______. 30 October 2003. Swedish Migration Board. "Processing an Asylum Case." [Accessed 12 May 2004]

______. April 2002. Swedish Migration Board. Swedish Refugee Policy. [Accessed 12 May 2004]

______. n.d.a. Aliens Appeals Board. "Aliens Appeals Board: A Presentation." [Accessed 17 May 2004]

______. n.d.b. Swedish Migration Board. Frequently Asked Questions. [Accessed 12 May 2004]

Swedish Refugee Aid. 18 May 2004. Correspondence from the Secretary General.

United Nations. 6 June 2002. Committee Against Torture (CAT). Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 19 of the Convention: Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee Against Torture: Sweden. [Accessed 18 May 2004]

United Nations. 1 May 2000. Legal and Social Conditions for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Western European Countries: Sweden. [Accessed 18 May 2004]

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 24 February 2004. Population Data Unit. Asylum Levels and Trends: Europe and Non-European Industrialized Countries, 2003. [Accessed 14 May 2004]

United States (US). US Committee for Refugees (USCR). 2003. World Refugee Survey 2003: Sweden. [Accessed 12 May 2004]

United States (US). US Committee for Refugees (USCR). June 2002. World Refugee Survey 2002: Sweden. [Accessed 12 May 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sources, including: Danish Immigration Service, Dialog, European Country of Origin Info Network, Freedom House, Human Rights Internet, Human Rights Without Frontiers, International Crisis Group, IRIN, Migration News, Norwegian Refugee Council, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Refugees International, Relief Web, UNHCR, World Immigration and Deportation, World News.

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