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Supervision and handling of complaints related to migration (2014:32)

Statskontoret has been commissioned by the government to investigate whether there is a need to make changes to supervision in the area of migration. The commission also requested our proposal for how the handling of complaints about the Swedish Migration Board's processing should be organised.

The starting point of the investigation was how the individual's legal rights in relation to the agency can be guaranteed in the most appropriate way. In this context supervision is one of a number of tools that can be used to safeguard legal rights.

Statskontoret's conclusion is that there is no need to change the supervision of the Migration Board's processing of cases. However, we propose that an independent body should be given the task of carrying out normal supervision of activities related to custody by the Migration Board.

There is no need to change supervision of the Migration Board's processing of cases

In the first instance, the Migration Board is responsible for the agency processing cases in a correct and uniform manner.

Statskontoret judges that the Migration Board's processing of cases has a relatively high level of protection for the individual's legal rights. This applies in particular to hearings for asylum, where asylum seekers have the right to public legal assistance.

The Migration Board regularly follows up case processing, in particular in the field of asylum. The follow-up procedure applies to the legal aspects of migration and quality of administration in processing. Statskontoret believes that the follow-up procedure using the methods developed by the Migration Board has good potential for safeguarding legal rights in case processing. As regards permits and citizenship cases, however, Statskontoret considers that the decision-making process so far has not been followed up in a satisfactory manner. Having said that, several follow-up activities were initiated in 2014.

Statskontoret underlines the importance of the Migration Board developing methods for systematic monitoring of all types of cases and ensuring that measures are carried out when deficiencies are found. To enable the government to monitor this work, Statskontoret proposes that the government gives the Migration Board the task of annually reporting the results of their follow-up work and what measures the agency has implemented to correct any deficiencies found.

Decisions can be appealed to the Migration Court

Statskontoret considers that the possibility of appealing a decision made by the Migration Board to the Migration Court constitutes a high level of protection for the individual's legal rights. The fact that migration cases are decided by a special court means that they have stronger legal rights compared to most other areas within the administration. In addition, it is possible to appeal decisions made by the Migration Court to the Migration Court of Appeal.

The Migration Board is examined in some detail

Statskontoret judges that the supervision and examination of Migration Board activities carried out by different external actors are relatively comprehensive. Like other agencies, the Migration Board is under the supervision of JO (the Parliamentary Ombudsman) and JK (the Chancellor of Justice), as well as a number of other supervisory authorities.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, checks that Sweden applies the UN refugee convention in a proper manner. Custody under the Migration Board also falls under special supervision by JO, based on the UN convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Supervision of custody should be exercised by an independent supervisory body

Statskontoret believes that the current review of custody is not sufficient and that supervision needs to be improved. Statskontoret therefore proposes that a body that is independent of the Migration Board should be given the task of exercising supervision of activities involving custody by the Migration Board.

The Migration Board's activities regarding custody involve restrictions on the individual's basic legal rights in several ways. In addition to the detention itself, searches and confiscation of property are carried out while people are in custody. Decisions regarding such measures cannot be appealed. Detention centres are also closed environments where external insight is limited, and people in custody are in a direct state of dependency on Migration Board staff.

Statskontoret proposes that the supervision of reasons for cost-effectiveness should be coordinated with other supervisory activities. For reasons related to activities, it would be appropriate to coordinate the supervision of custody aspects with a future independent supervision of the police and, where appropriate, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service. This issue is currently under investigation.

The Migration Board lacks systematic complaint processing

Statskontoret assesses that the Migration Board does not currently meet the requirements for systematic processing and analysis of viewpoints received that are reasonable to put on an agency. On the other hand, we believe that the Migration Board handles complaints relatively well in channelling viewpoints to those officials and managers who are responsible for answering the complaints.

Statskontoret notes that there are no general procedures for the handling of comments at the unit level, or for the registration of complaints. Customer service, which is the unit within the agency that receives most comments, lacks procedures and support for systematic processing. Applicants and other interested parties feel that it is difficult to reach the Migration Board, and that it is unclear how to make a complaint.

Statskontoret judges that the current complaints unit, the Applicant's ombudsman, does not work particularly well. Our conclusion is therefore that this entity should not be the starting point when the Migration Board improves its complaints management. In future complaints processing, the Applicant's ombudsman should either be phased out or be given a clearer task with sufficient resources to fulfil the task.

Proposal for systematic complaints processing

Statskontoret proposes that the processing of complaints and viewpoints should be decentralised in the organisation. To make such processing efficient, the Migration Board should develop its IT support so that it will be possible to register, distribute, analyse and give feedback on viewpoints received to the entire organisation. Uniform complaints processing should contribute to the development of quality of activities.

To make the situation easier for the individual, it should be possible to submit viewpoints through different channels and in several languages. The Migration Board should have procedures for receiving viewpoints orally, either by telephone or at their reception. Complaints received in this way should be handled in a systematic manner so that they can be communicated quickly and easily to the right person, and should be included in documentation for analysis.

At the same time, it is important that the Migration Board clearly indicates the best ways of making contact with the agency. Through detailed and easily accessible information on how an individual can submit a complaint, the agency will increase its accessibility and facilitate their own handling of complaints at the same time.