The Swedish government has launched an inquiry on the reform of the reception system for newly arrived asylum seekers with the objective of “rapid settlement or return”. Civil society organisations including ECRE members as well as the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) have provided input to the consultation, highlighting concerns about the feasibility of the proposals and protection risks they carry.

The ideas for reform put forward by the government in the inquiry include the establishment of “arrival centres” (Ankomstcenter). These facilities, reminiscent of the German arrival centres (Ankunftszentren) and Dutch Process Reception Centres (POL), would be set up at central government level as the designated centres where asylum applications should be lodged, and where applicants would receive information and a medical examination. According to the proposals, arrival centres should be large facilities bringing together all relevant actors in the asylum procedure to enable a swift examination of applications and orderly reception. Asylum seekers could be required to reside there for 30 days.

According to the Swedish Refugee Advice Centre and the Network of Refugee Support Groups (FARR), the introduction of arrival centres could have positive effects in terms of effective provision of information and health checks. However, a general obligation on all asylum seekers to reside in arrival centres could have negative effects on persons with vulnerabilities and children, whose best interests must be secured. The Swedish Refugee Advice Centre has also expressed doubts about the capacity of the Swedish Migration Agency to swiftly process asylum claims in arrival centres.

The inquiry also covers reduced possibilities for independent accommodation. Asylum seekers would no longer be able to arrange their own accommodation in municipalities with socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods without prior inspection from the Migration Agency. Residence in independent accommodation without Migration Agency approval would result in withdrawal of asylum seekers’ financial allowance.

FARR has criticised this suggestion, highlighting that independent accommodation enables asylum seekers to better integrate within host communities. The measure is also liable to undermine the Migration Agency’s ability to stay in contact with applicants who live independently, even if their allowance is withdrawn.

The establishment of departure centres (Avresecenter) introduced in the inquiry would mean that persons issued a return or Dublin transfer decision would be required to live in a departure centre, so as to facilitate their removal from the country. This element has been strongly opposed inter alia due to the authorities’ lack of capacity to ensure that stays are as short as possible. Civil society organisations argue that individuals could end up detained for prolonged periods. The Swedish Refugee Advice Centre has also highlighted that the presence of civil society in departure centres and contacts with medical and other authorities are not clearly established in the proposals.

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This information was first published by AIDA.*

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.