Sweden asks psychology experts to help improve asylum assessments

The Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) has asked psychology experts to help them better judge the stories of asylum applicants during the application process and make it more legally secure.

Sweden asks psychology experts to help improve asylum assessments
File photo of a shelter for asylum seekers in Sweden. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Researchers from the Gothenburg University (GU) department of psychology worked with Migrationsverket to develop new, additional guidance for the agency's officials, including research-based criteria on how to assess reliability.

“If the advice is followed there will be greater legal security and fairer assessments,” GU psychology professor and project leader Pär Anders Granhag said.

Most asylum seekers in Sweden lack official documents, and it is their stories and memories that the Migrationsverket officer processing the application has to assess.

“As such it's important to know thing about the human memory. For example, what can you expect someone to remember from traumatic events?” Granhag noted.

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The project is designed to give Migrationsverket's staff a basic knowledge of legal and memory psychology research, he explained:

“They can't sit there with unsophisticated ideas when they are evaluating stories on which so much is at stake. We have to help the staff so that they are in as good a position as possible to make these difficult judgements. It's a question of competence.”

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Up to date research in the field has been summarized and compiled in a booklet that will now form the basis of Migrationsverket's training of staff in the area. And the agency thinks the work will have benefits.

“Each case is unique. But we can probably get it right to a greater extent. This will to some degree lead to more legally secure assessments,” Migrationsverket skills developer Christian Andersson commented.

Sweden received a record 163,000 asylum applications in 2015, dropping to 29,000 in 2016, and Migrationsverket has been working to process the backlog. It is estimated that 2016's applications will be processed by the end of this year.