Increase in Ukrainian asylum seekers

With the conflict in Ukraine escalating, more Ukrainians are seeking asylum in Sweden.

Fresh figures show that the number of Ukrainian asylum seekers has increased from 80 people to some 500 this year.

Carl Bexelius is Assistant Director for Legal Affairs at the Swedish Migration Board. He says it is hard to know what areas the asylum seekers are from. The Migration Board only registers citizenship. But most of them are likely from Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

Carl Bexelius says their cases will be tried like all asylum cases - based on their individual need for protection considering the situation in their home country. And  labels like "tensions",  "armed conflict" or "war" make all the difference.

"The Migration Board has to apply the Aliens act and the definitions used there," Bexelius says. "The content and assessment of what can be considered to be an armed conflict is something that's established by the Migrations court, and that's what we have to work with," he says.

While the Red Cross uses the term war in this case, the Migration Board uses the label "armed conflict".

But the decision as to whether a person will be granted asylum or not isn't just based on risk assesment. The Migration Board also has to take into account whether the individual is able to seek refuge in other parts of their own country, in this case Ukraine.

Carl Bexelius says the Board first assesses the risks for the individual - what kind of threats they are exposed to by others and what the general security situation in their country. The next step is to evaluate whether it is possible for the asylum seeker to seek refuge within his or her country. And often that is the information that needs updating when it comes to Ukrainian asylum cases.

"If you're from Luhansk or Donetsk and you run the risk of being affected by fighting in the area, normally you have the opportunity to go somewhere else within Ukraine," Bexelius says. So the fact that many still choose to come to Sweden could have something to do with our reputation.

"The Migration Board and Sweden have a long history of receiving a high number of asylum seekers and it could be that Sweden has a good reputation as a host country," Carl Bexelius says.