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There are five closed detention centres in Sweden, with a total capacity of approximately 150 places.  They are all run by the Swedish Migration Board.   The biggest of these centres is located in Märsta, close to Stockholm International Airport, with a capacity of 70 places, and where JRS-Sweden is active.



The law does not formally distinguish between the detention of asylum seekers and the detention of irregular migrants.  Instead national legislation only refers to "aliens", and provides conditions to detain these persons.  Sweden's main legislation on asylum and immigration are:

2005 ALIENS ACT (159.94 KB)


Swedish detention centres are regulated under public law.  The Swedish Migration Board, as a public authority, is responsible for the detention premises and for the treatment and supervision of migrants held in detention (Chap. 11, Sect. 2 of the Aliens Act).  Also under public law are correctional institutions, remand centres and police facilities, where detainees may also be kept.



The conditions for detaining aliens are regulated in the Aliens Act, Chapter 10, Section 1 (adults) and Section 2 (minors under the age of 18).  There is no distinction made between asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

The legislation distinguishes detention according to the purpose of the measure (Aliens Act, Chapter 10, Section 1, paragraphs 1-2):

A) Identity detention, to asses the identity upon arrival in Sweden (Chapter 10, Section 1, paragraph 2.1).

B) Detention for investigation, to prevent the migrant from absconding while investigating their right to stay in Sweden.

C) Detention for enforcement of the order barring entry into Sweden or for a removal order, in order to prevent absconding.

Chapter 8, Section 1-2 and 7 of the Aliens Act regulates the possibilities to refuse entry into Sweden because of insufficient identity or residence documents, or to expel a migrant who is staying in the country but lacks identity or residence documents. 

Judicial review is only carried out in the appeals phase.  The authority handling the case must review the decision within certain intervals: every two weeks for the enforcement of a detention order, or, when there is a refusal-of-entry or expulsion order, every two months from the date on which enforcement of the order began (Aliens Act, Chapter 10, Section 9).  An oral hearing precedes the judicial examination (Aliens Act, Chapter 10, Section 11).

There is a right to appeal against a detention order.  This can be done at any time and must be addressed to the Migration Court, or to the Supreme Administrative Court, if the detention was ordered by the Minister responsible for cases under the Aliens Act (Chapter 14, Section 9).  There is also a right of appeal against detention conditions (Aliens Act, Chapter 10, Section 14).



"Detention for investigation" may not be carried out for more than 48 hours (Aliens Act, Chapter 10, Section 4).  In other cases, migrants who are 18 years old may not be detained for more than two weeks, unless there are exceptional grounds for detainment for a longer period of time.  If, however, a refusal-of-entry or expulsion order has been issued, the migrant may be detained for not more than two months, unless there are exceptional grounds for detainment for a longer period of time.

A child may not be detained for more than 72 hours, or, if there are exceptional grounds for a prolongation of another 72 hours (Aliens Act, Chapter 10, Section 5).

Otherwise, there is no maximum duration of detention for adult migrants in Sweden.  The national authorities and the courts must decide on a case-by-case basis if there are "exception grounds" for further detention.  In the preamble to the Aliens Act, "exceptional grounds" include an inability to establish the migrant's identity because he or she has given incorrect information about him or herself, or that an investigation is in progress to determine a third country that would take him or her back. 



The detainee has the right to be informed about the reasons for his or her detention (Förvaltningslag, 1986:223, section 20).  The police must also inform the detainee about the decision when the detention order is enforced.  Also such information must be provided for at the detention centre.

Detainees should be informed orally or in writing about how a detention order may be appealed, if it is not obviously unnecessary (Förvaltningslag, 1986:223, section 21).  In practice, this information is given orally by detention centre staff.

Detainees have a right to an interpreter at court hearings and appearances before the authorities (Förvaltningslag, 1986:223, section 8 and 50).  In practice, an interpreter is used whenever the detainee so wishes.  The interpreter is paid for by the state (Aliens Act, Chapter 13, Section 11).



Basic health care for detainees, such as emergency physical health and dental care and maternity care, is provided for by the state (Aliens Act, Chapter 11, Section 5).  Detained migrant children have access to the same level of health care as do Swedish children.



Detainees have the right to receive visitors on a daily basis, and to have contact with persons who are outside the premises (Aliens Act, Chapter 11, Section 4).  In principle visits are unlimited; any limitations that are enforced are done so for practical reasons (see the non-binding guidelines for detention centres, by the Swedish Migration Board, Förvarsverksamheten vid Migrationsverket. Gemensamma rikttinjer, standarder och rutiner. DNR: MAL 111-2006-346).



JRS-Sweden accompanies detainees in Märsta detention centre.  Their main work is to give psychological support to detainees, to provide pastoral care, to help them connect with relatives and lawyers on the outside, to mediate between detainees and the police or the Swedish Migration Board, and to establish contact with other NGOs.



Migrationsverket/Swedish Migration Board: Sweden’s central government authority for aliens’ affairs, and the authority that runs the detention centres in Sweden.

Swedish Refugee Advice Centre: The centre is a non-governmental organization and aims to provide refugees and asylum seekers with professional legal assistance. 

Temaasyl: National Thematic Network on Asylum & Integration in Sweden, http://www.temaasyl.se/




Last updated on: 16/02/2010