Foreign prisoners reject Swedish hospitality

Swedish correctional facilities may be the institutions of choice for discerning war criminals, but for those already slammed up in Sweden, it seems that anywhere else in the world is better.

The number of prisoners in Sweden seeking to move to prisons in their homelands has increased drastically this year. So far this year, 64 people have applied to be sent home, according to figures from the prison service. In contrast, only 28 people put in applications during the whole of 2004.

The most well-known prisoner to ask for a transfer was Mijailo Mijailovic, who murdered Anna Lindh, Sweden’s foreign minister. Mijailovic, despite having lived most of his life in Sweden, applied for Serbian citizenship and moved to a prison in Serbia last year, saying that he felt threatened in Sweden.

The most popular country to be sent back to is the Netherlands – nineteen of the prisoners to ask for a transfer were Dutch. According to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, most of these prisoners are convicted of drugs offences, about which Dutch authorities are more lenient.

Serbia and Montenegro and Germany were also popular destinations, something that the prison service found harder to explain.

One possible reason for the increase in numbers is that prison authorities have become better at informing prisoners of the possibilities of moving country. Another reason could be the well-publicised overcrowding that has started to affect Swedish jails in recent months, Svenska Dagbladet reported.

But Mats Ehn, head of security at Hall prison, said he did not believe that this was the main reason behind the statistics.

“The conditions in prisons in their own countries have improved, and of course they know this,” he said.

“Then the desire to be near to family and others who can visit them grows,” he added.