Sweden: Different asylum approval rates

In 'Generous Betrayal' (my review), Prof. Unni Wikan tells of asylum seekers who come to Norway knowing exactly which asylum offices they should turn to for the best chance of getting their application approved. This shouldn't be a surprise for immigration officers.


Getting asylum in Sweden is significantly harder in Stockholm than in Scania. Even in Scania there are differences in applications. An Iraqi whose application gets to the 'wrong' person in
Malmö runs twice the risk of being rejected.

Seeking asylum in Sweden can be a bit of a lottery. This year it's most noticeable by Iraqi citizens, according to a review by Sydsvanskan newspaper.

Last year almost all Iraqi asylum seekers got residence permits for living in Sweden. This year the attitude was more restrictive, but not all asylum offices accepted the tougher practice.

According to Migrationverket, the Swedish immigration authority, an Iraqi who seeks asylum in Malmö in 2008 has a bigger chance of having his request granted, than an Iraqi who seeks asylum in Märsta. Only five Iraqis received asylum there.

There are differences in Malmö itself too. At Asylum Office #1, asylum seeking Iraqis had an 80% chance of being granted asylum, while at office #3 only 45% were granted asylum.

According to Nevine Mawati, head of the more restrictive asylum office in Malmö, the approval rate among her officers was guided by a decision not to give asylum in reference to the general situation in Iraq. The situation in Iraq had changed for the better since last year, she says.

According to Oskar Ekblad, head of
Malmö's most generation asylum office, there's no reason to think that his officers were nicer than other case handling officers in Migrationsverket. They have a well functioning unit that decides on cases pretty fast. They had a large number of cases of approvals after Christmas and they have received large family, which means more approvals.

Both Nevine Mawati and Oskar Ekblad also point to chance as an explanation of the differences between the two approval rates of their offices. They think twelve weeks is too short a time to discern lasting differences.

Migrationsverket's heads are more concerned. Eugene Palmer, responsible collecting asylum requests, that they will immediately take initiative to study why asylum decisions for Iraqis vary with Swedish geography.

He says it would be unfortunate if they apply different practices in different places. They strive for equality. Now they must see if there's a different application and if there's a natural explanation. They will try, through help of internal seminars, to make sure that application (of immigration laws) is equal.

He can't say which is right, the more generous or more restrictive approach, and he says that workers in Migrationsverket don't get to decide on it. It's decided by the immigration judges, or by the general manager.

Last year Migrationsverket dealt with 186,715 cases, an in crease of 8.4% compared to 2006's 172,241 cases. 67,030 people were granted a residence permit, compared to 66,237 the year before. In 29,515 of those cases last year, it involved family reunification, compared to 27,291 the year before. 18,414 received asylum status.

Source: Sydsvenskan (Swedish), based on migrationsverket statistics (Swedish and English)

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