Statement Finnish immigration service’s arbitrary and unfair decision-making has to change

Free Movement Network:

Statement: Finnish immigration service’s arbitrary and unfair decision-making has to change

The Free Movement Network denounces the Finnish Immigration Service’s manner of handling asylum applications of people coming from crisis countries. During the summer of 2016 the proportion of negative asylum decisions has increased very rapidly. For instance in June 77 percent of Iraqis received negative asylum decisions[1]. At the same time, the security situation in Iraq and other crisis countries has weakened dramatically. Recently the general public has learned how people whose lives are in danger have been refused asylum and other forms of international protection in Finland.[2]


The aim of the asylum process should be to recognise people in need of international protection. However, the Finnish Immigration Service seems to actively try to remove as many people as possible from Finland. The political motive is evident in asylum decisions. The Ministry of Interior announced a target to multiply deportations already in the autumn of 2015, as a record number of asylum seekers had arrived to Finland. Of the 32.500 asylum seekers in 2015 about 20.000 were Iraqis.


Poor justifications for asylum decisions and their catastrophic consequences

The security assessments of Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan were tightened for the first time in the autumn of 2015. In May 2016 the Finnish Immigration Service declared that one may return to these countries without a risk imposed by the general security situation in the country. Both the European Court of Human Rights (Iraq) as well as human rights organisations’ and the UN agencies’ reports from these crisis countries conclude that the security situation has further deteriorated during the last 12 months.[3] The Director General of the Finnish Immigration Service has no more been able to justify the new guidelines it published in May regarding the security situation in these countries.[4]

Some of the negative asylum decisions refer to the possibility of internal flight. It is unacceptable to state that a person whose life is clearly at risk in his or her home region could find a secure place within the same country or even in a certain part of a city in a situation in which the state’s ability to protect the safety of its citizens has been completely collapsed.[5] For example human rights organisations in Iraq report that the inability in securing the basic needs of the 3.4 million internal refugees risks developing into a severe humanitarian crisis.[6]

In May 2016 the possibility of residence permit on the basis of humanitarian reasons was removed from the Aliens Act and the Finnish Immigration Service also tightened the basis for granting secondary protection. Both permit categories have until now offered a possibility for people fleeing crisis and war areas to get protection based on the security situation alone in the country of departure. A person who has received a negative decision is not even entitled to a temporary residence permit since July 2015. Thus, people who do not return voluntarily or cannot be deported will become undocumented, deprived of any rights.


Lacks in the asylum procedure

There have been evident lacks in conducting asylum interviews and in decision procedures during the last year. The network is aware of cases in which the asylum seeker has not even been informed about the right to legal aid or about the course of an asylum process in general. The discussion presumed to be an asylum interview has been carried out at a reception centre without previous notification. Furthermore, many interviews have been severely faulty, applicants have for instance not been asked about their reasons to flee their countries of origin or reasons of not being able to return. Also, competent translation has not been always available. These defects put the entire asylum process in question as Migri makes decisions solely on basis of the information given in the asylum interview.

Even Migri’s own officials have admitted publicly that decisions have been made carelessly. Migri has made an effort to process the applications faster. At worst, decisions have been made after two weeks from the applicant’s arrival to Finland. In an interview with the Finnish newspaperHelsingin Sanomat Migri’s employees speak of unrealistic ambitions to speed up the process, which jeopardises both the quality of the interviews and of the decisions.[7]


Migri’s tightened policy prevents undocumented from legalising their position

It also seems that Migri has tightened its practices in regard of work and study related residence permit decisions. The Free Movement Network is aware of a case in which a work permit was refused because the applicant did not have a passport. The applicant was not granted an alien’s passport, because he was not granted a residence permit. Other residence permits are also not granted when Migri suspects that the applicant seeks to circumvent immigration regulation. Yet in the current situation Migri should on the contrary make it easier for rejected asylum seekers who cannot return to their countries of origin to apply for other types of permits. Otherwise the group excluded from basic rights could grow significantly in Finland.


Migri needs to change their practices


The Free Movement network demands an immediate change of the life-threatening decision routine of Migri:


All asylum seekers are to be guaranteed a just and thorough asylum process.


Migri has admitted that the May 2016 security guidelines were in no way related with a supposed improvement of the security situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. People should not be sent back to these countries. 


Internal flight cannot be used as justification for negative decisions.


People fleeing crises need to be granted protection or a temporary residence permit at minimum.


The negative decisions made thus far need to be processed again, in a new and just examination.


Rejected asylum seekers need to be granted better possibilities to legalise their status via other residence permits.




[1] The Finnish Migration Service 6.7.2016:  http://www.migri.fi/medialle/tiedotteet/lehdistotiedotteet/lehdistotiedotteet/1/0/irakilaisten_turvapaikkapaatokset_kielteisten_osuus_kasvanut_68688

[2] Helsingin Sanomat newspaper 28.7.2016 “Irakilaismies kertoi olevansa Isisin piinaama, ei saanut turvapaikkaa –Maahanmuuttovirasto ei kiistä somessa levinneen tekstin aitoutta” [An Iraqi man told of presectution by ISIS but was not granted asylum – Migration Service does not contest the information spread in social media]

[3] E.g. Amnesty International annual reports from the period 2015/2016:  Afghanistan: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/afghanistan/report-afghanistan/; Iraq: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/iraq/report-iraq/ Somalia: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/somalia/report-somalia/

[4] Helsingin Sanomat newspaper 4.9.2016: “Maahanmuuttoviraston työntekijät avautuvat hurjasta kiireestä, joka voi johtaa vääriin turvapaikkapäätöksiin – ‘Ei ehditä tutkia tapauksia kunnolla’”. [Migration Office employees speak of outrageous rush that might cause mistakes in asylum decisions – ’We don’t have the time for thorough investigation’]

[5] An asylum descision given to an Iraqi man, which was leaked online by Sunniva Drake: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sunnileaks-t%C3%A4llaisia-ne-ovat-sunniva-drake. See also Lahib Higel YLE 31.8.2016 “Irakissa kummastellaan Suomen käsitystä turvallisesta Bagdadista – ‘Kun lähtee kotoa, ei tiedä tuleeko koskaan takaisin’”. [People in Iraq are puzzled about Finland’s interpretation of a safe Baghdad – ‘When you leave home, you never know if you come back]

[6] Amnesty International 16.8.2016: IRAQ: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS MORE RISK DISPLACEMENT SPARKING FRESH HUMANITARIAN CRISIS.https://www.amnesty.ie/latest/news/2016/08/16/iraq-hundreds-thousands-risk-displacement-sparking-fresh-humanitarian-crisis/

[7] Helsingin Sanomat newspaper 4.9.2016: “Maahanmuuttoviraston työntekijät avautuvat hurjasta kiireestä, joka voi johtaa vääriin turvapaikkapäätöksiin – ‘Ei ehditä tutkia tapauksia kunnolla’”. [Migration Office employees speak of outrageous rush that might cause mistakes in asylum decisions – ’We don’t have the time for thorough investigation’]