This is a statement by UNHCR’s Representative to the Nordic and Baltic countries, Henrik M. Nordentoft.
The Swedish Parliament has today adopted a revision of the Swedish Aliens Act.
UNHCR appreciates that the adopted law reaffirms Sweden’s longstanding commitment and practice to provide access to safety and asylum for persons in need of protection and to provide solutions, including for the most vulnerable individuals.
In our comments to the proposed changes of 7 December 2020, UNHCR expressed concern that residence permits issued to refugees and persons granted subsidiary protection will be of limited, temporary duration, rather than permanent, which was the practice until the introduction of the temporary law in 2016.
UNHCR finds that persons in need of protection require a certainty of their legal residency status in order to help them rebuild their lives and gradually integrate into their local communities. UNHCR’s view is thus that residence permits for refugees need to be issued for an initial period of five years as also done in several European countries, with a guarantee that the permits will be renewed as long as the protection is needed. The shorter duration of residence permits for refugees (3 years) and persons with subsidiary protection status (13 months) now in place is therefore in the view of UNHCR counterproductive to the need for providing a stable and secure protection environment.
In the comments, UNHCR also expressed strong concerns about the fact that the possibility for refugees to unite with their family members remains very restrictive and continues to be dominated by a range of practical, legal and financial obstacles. UNHCR will continue to advocate for the removal of these obstacles to family reunification to ensure the earliest possible reunification of families and to protect especially women and children from having to undertake dangerous and risky journeys to reach their loved ones. In the view of UNHCR, the primary consideration governing family reunion should instead be to ensure a legal framework that enables and facilitates the early reunion between spouses, partners, children and other dependent family members who have been forced apart.
Sweden remains one of UNHCR most longstanding and constructive partners, and we look forward to our continued cooperation in providing protection to persons of concern to UNHCR.