RESEARCHER: FINLAND'S ASYLUM DECISION PROCESSES ENDANGER PEOPLE'S LIVES

Finland’s asylum decisions changed greatly in May 2016 when Finland issued new country of origin guidelines for Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

 
Between January and March 2016, the majority of Iraqi applicants still received positive decisions; in April 2016, the proportions were almost half and half. In May, the Finnish Immigration Service started issuing clearly more negative than positive decisions to Iraqi applicants. According to Eurostat, as many as 79% of Iraqi asylum seekers received negative decisions in October-December 2016; in Sweden, the proportion was 64%. The development was due to Sweden reviewing its country of origin guidelines and finding that the security situation on Iraq had deteriorated. Meanwhile, Finland continued its stricter asylum policy for Iraqi applicants.

There are distinct problems in recent asylum decisions issued by the Finnish Immigration Service. Many of the Service’s decisions initially appear good and logical, but problems are evident on a closer look. Matters presented during the asylum interview and essential for the decision have been omitted from the decisions. For example, events related to persecution have been omitted – such as a case of someone throwing a hand grenade in the asylum seeker’s home.

Matters told during the interview have also been modified. Decisions have claimed an asylum seeker has not been subject to threats, even when the asylum seeker has told during the interview about having been threatened. In some cases, the asylum seeker has received threatening phone calls and their home has been attacked, but the Finnish Immigration Service has not granted asylum because it has considered this is not a case of being subject to personal persecution.

Often, problems begin as early as during the interview stage. The interpreter may speak a dialect that differs from that of the asylum seeker. Since the asylum seeker does not understand what the interpreter is saying, they cannot assess whether the interpreter has understood the matter correctly.

Asylum interviews were changed in 2016. Currently, asylum seekers can be accompanied by a lawyer during the interview only in exceptional cases, and the maximum duration of the first asylum interview is three hours. For many asylum seekers, the first interview is also the last.

The hurry shows in the asylum interview minutes. Asylum seekers are not always presented all the questions or responses essential for the case, and further details are not always requested even in cases where they should have been. Now that lawyers are no longer present during interviews, asylum seekers should know on their own which matters relating to their background are essential to tell from the perspective of asylum legislation.

Today, the decisions very clearly show that asylum seekers are not considered reliable and their reports are considered doubtful. 

ALMOST A QUARTER OF DECISIONS BY THE FINNISH IMMIGRATION SERVICE WERE REVERSED AT ADMINISTRATIVE COURTS


The Finnish Immigration Service has admitted that mistakes have been made in asylum decisions. Mistakes and errors occur so frequently in the decisions that they no longer appear to be mistakes by individual staff members but rather come across as deliberate and systematic choices. 

The Finnish Immigration Service has pointed out that asylum seekers are entitled to appeal to an administrative court to have errors rectified. However, this does not happen today. Among other things, this is due to shorter appeal periods, because of which the asylum seeker has no time to submit an appeal or ends up submitting a poor quality appeal


Decisions by administrative courts have also been of poor quality. The threat experienced by the asylum seeker has been considered “unlikely” or “credible” without presenting any justification. 

In 2016, Helsinki Administrative Court reversed 23.7% of decisions by the Finnish Immigration Service.
Currently, Finland’s asylum decision processes put asylum seekers at risk of death.


Writer Erna Bodström is an immigration researcher at the University of Helsinki
(original Finnish article https://demofi.blogspot.fi/2017/04/tutkija-suomen-turvapaikkaprosessit.html)

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RIGHT TO LIVE
Press release


6 April 2017
Editor by Outi Popp

The asylum seekers’ #RightToLive demonstration at Helsinki Railway Square continues for the 57th day on the day of this press release.




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