The number of transfers between EU prisons have in fact decreased since new rules, designed to make it easier for EU citizens to serve prison sentences in their home countries, were introduced, TT reports.
Around one third of all people who begin serving sentences in Swedish prisons each year are foreign nationals. That has equated to around 3,000 people annually in recent years, TT reports.
The Swedish prison service said it generally prefers prisoner to serve penalties in their home countries.
“It goes without saying that it is easier to serve a meaningful sentence in the country where you have your family and can be visited,” said Liza Gefzelius, section manager with the Swedish Prison and Probation Service.
Many people are also sentenced to deportation, which means that they will be reintroduced to society in a country other than Sweden once they have served their prison term.
“It is easier to plan for a better life afterwards if you are in the country where you are going to be (after leaving prison),” Gefzelius said.
Although 2,966 individuals were enrolled in Swedish prisons last year, only 51 of these were subsequently transferred. That is the lowest figure for several years, even though new EU regulations, introduced in 2015, aimed to make it easier to transfer prisoners between EU countries.
“It is clear there is a certain amount of frustration. This framework makes faster, simpler transfers possible, but it has not been fully implemented,” Gefzelius said.
The reasons for the difficulties are manifold but often related to difficulties in ascertaining the country to which an individual person actually belongs, TT writes. Individuals may have lived in several countries and citizenship is not always the decisive factor. Jurisdiction of local courts in some countries further complicates the issue.
Furthermore, some countries are not considered to meet requirements for human rights, area per prisoner or hygiene.
Prisoners that do not want to move can also influence or delay the process by appealing a decision to relocate them.
Separate agreements are required for transfers to countries that are not part of the EU. As such, Sweden has worked to establish arrangements with countries including Georgia to make this possible. In other countries, conditions such as war make it impossible to deport convicted criminals, even after sentences have been fully served.
“We have the rule of law and must comply with human rights conventions. We do not transfer people to countries who cannot fulfil (human rights conventions),” Gezelius said.