This content was published in the period between 9 July 2021 and 30 November 2021

Frequently asked questions about migration resulting from the situation in Afghanistan


Resettlement is a voluntary, regulated selection and transfer of refugees from one state to another that has agreed to admit them – as refugees – with residence permits. Since 2018 Sweden has received 5 000 quota refugees every year from refugee situations globally.  The focus of the Swedish refugee quota is to help resolve protracted refugee situations that risk becoming permanent. It can also provide urgent protection to people in vulnerable situations. The individuals selected for resettlement may be in refugee camps, but they may also be in cities or rural areas. Resettlement in another country can be the only durable solution for people who can neither remain in their first country of asylum or return home. Individuals selected as quota refugees to Sweden are submitted to the Swedish Migration Agency by UNHCR, or in extraordinary cases, by a Swedish Embassy. Those eligible for resettlement are classified as refugees or persons otherwise in need of protection and granted permanent residence permits in Sweden. The Swedish Aliens Act serves as the legal basis for resettlement selection and procedures.

The Government held an extraordinary government meeting on 15 August. A number of amendments to the regulatory framework concerning resettlement were adopted to enable greater flexibility in acute situations. The Swedish Migration Agency is the authority responsible for decisions on residence permits and resettlement.

Under the government decision, the requirement that a person must be in a third country to be eligible for resettlement is temporarily removed. The Embassy will propose individuals for resettlement.

Furthermore, a Ministry of Justice decision of 15 August enables the Swedish Migration Agency to temporarily redistribute places within Sweden’s current annual quota of 5 000 among quota groups. The Agency can thus free up places within the current quota that may be used, if needed, for emergency cases in the urgent Afghanistan situation.

The Swedish Migration Agency now also has the option to redistribute the places available within Sweden’s existing refugee quota of 5 000 for 2021, allowing a larger number of places for acute situations than the 500 earmarked for that purpose.

No, it is not possible to apply for a residence permit as a quota refugee. The UNHCR or a Swedish diplomatic mission can propose individuals for resettlement. Priority should be given to vulnerable minorities, women and girls at risk. Following consultation with the Swedish Security Service, the Swedish Migration Agency examines each case independently in accordance with the provisions of the Aliens Act. Each examination is individual and based on an assessment of the need for protection.

No, the Government cannot take decisions on residence permits or resettlement. The competent authority – the Swedish Migration Agency – takes decisions in individual cases, applying the provisions of the Aliens Act. Under Chapter 12, Article 2 of the Instrument of Government, the Government cannot influence the Agency’s exercise of public authority in relation to an individual.

Any person who is persecuted or risks persecution or inhuman treatment in their country of origin can apply for asylum, but they must be in Sweden or at the Swedish border to apply for asylum here. The Swedish Migration Agency processes applications and decides on residence permits on grounds of a need for protection under the provisions of the Aliens Act.

The Swedish Migration Agency decided on 16 July 2021 to stop the enforcement of refusal-of-entry and expulsion orders to Afghanistan until further notice, due to the security situation in Afghanistan. Afghan nationals who have received final and non-appealable rejections of their asylum applications can apply to the Swedish Migration Agency for a temporary residence permit.

Temporary halt to taking and enforcing decisions pertaining to Afghanistan - Swedish Migration Agency (

Nationals of countries outside the EU who want to move to a family member in Sweden need to apply for a residence permit before they travel. The Swedish Migration Agency processes applications and decides on residence permits.

According to the UNHCR, there are 2.6 million displaced Afghans in the world. Afghanistan is the third largest country of origin for refugees globally (after Syria and Venezuela).

UNHCR Global Trends - Forced displacement in 2020

According to data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an estimated 5.5 million people are internally displaced in Afghanistan. The number of internally displaced people increased by around 550 000 this year up to 9 August, and the Taliban takeover is likely to further increase that number.

Increased violence, insecurity about the future and a difficult socio-economic situation are strong push factors for Afghans to migrate in search of safety and opportunities abroad. It is reasonable to assume that the majority who migrate will initially do so within their own country. At a later stage, many will probably also try to leave Afghanistan, primarily for Iran and Pakistan. Whether they then remain in that area or attempt to move on to Turkey and Europe depends on factors such as political and economic conditions and opportunities to earn a living in those countries.

The migration implications for Sweden are difficult to assess, but are likely to be minor in the short to medium term. Major migration is most likely to occur internally and to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. Migration to Turkey, and onwards to Europe, is dependent on the ability and willingness of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey to stop migration internally and across their borders.