Critical Criminology

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 219–235 | Cite as

Seeking Asylum and Residence Permits in Sweden: Denial, Acknowledgement, and Bureaucratic Legitimacy



Sweden’s reputation as one of the most encompassing welfare states in the world is maintained by means of a good self-image, not least in relation to refugee policies. At the same time, external authorities have been critical of Sweden’s handling of the process of seeking asylum. Drawing on Stanley Cohen’s concepts of denial and partial acknowledgment, the article explores how Swedish state officials respond to complaints regarding the process of seeking asylum and other forms of residence permit. The study analyzes judgments from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Chancellor of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. The analysis suggests that even within the well-developed democratic state, denials constitute a form of account that may be utilized to maintain bureaucratic legitimacy. In addition, partial acknowledgments serve to present state actors as decent and self-correcting. At the same time these acknowledgements could be understood as constituting a means of avoiding moral censure.


Welfare State State Official Asylum Seeker State Representative Senior Official 



The author would like to thank Vanessa Barker at the Department of Sociology at Stockholm University, whose comments and suggestions have improved the article significantly. The author is also grateful for the valuable comments provided by the anonymous reviewers, as well as to David Shannon for translating the quotes and suggesting improvements to my English.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CriminologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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