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The Finnish Immigration Service has updated its guidelines on Afghanistan

12.9.2018 9.31 | Published in English on 12.9.2018 at 9.40
Press release

The Finnish Immigration Service has updated its decision-making practices with re-gard to asylum seekers from Afghanistan. The update was performed because, on 30 August 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees published its guidelines on assessing the need for international protection of asylum seekers from Afghanistan.

The Finnish Immigration Service’s previous policy was largely in line with the most recent UNHCR guidelines. Changes will be made to the way in which the possibility of internal flight to Kabul is assessed. Internal flight refers to whether an applicant can settle elsewhere in the home country if threatened with persecution or serious harm in their home territory.

The Finnish Immigration Service suspended its decision-making on asylum seekers from Afghanistan until an evaluation of the UNCHR guidelines was completed. Decision-making will now continue.

The Finnish Immigration Service reviews and evaluates its policy and its decision-making practices whenever necessary. In the preparation of national guidelines, account is taken of the UNHCR guidelines, but they are not directly binding for the Finnish Immigration Service.

Asylum seekers may still be returned to Afghanistan

The UNHCR's most recent guidelines do not conclude that the security situation throughout Afghanistan is so difficult that all people returned to the country would be in danger of being subjected to armed violence. This is also consistent with the previous line taken by the Finnish Immigration Service, which will not change: international protection is not granted on the grounds that a person comes from Afghanistan, there must be individual grounds for granting protection.

However, the UNHCR notes that in certain parts of Afghanistan the security situation may be so serious that no one should be required to return there. Also the Finnish Immigration Service estimates that there are many areas where the violence is so extreme that anyone returning to the territory would be in danger of falling victim to it.

In its guidelines, the UNHCR does not take a more specific position on where such areas are located, but the security situation in Afghanistan is mainly considered in the general context of the country as a whole. The Finnish Immigration Service’s assessment of the security situation in the country is district-based and founded on EU directives, national legislation and established legal practice. At present, no one is required to return to the following areas that are subject to extreme violence: the Helmand Province; the Tirin Kot, Dehrawud and Chora districts in Uruzgan; the southern districts of the Nangarhar Province (Achin, Kot, Nazyan, Chaparhar, Bati Kot, Pachir wa Agam, Khogiani and Deh Bala/Haska Mina) and the Ghorak, Khakriz, Maiwand, Nish and Shah Wali Kot districts of the Kandahar Province.

In addition, the UNHCR’s guidelines do not draw the conclusion that the violence in Kabul is so extreme that no one can return to the capital city. In June 2018, the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland ruled that the general security and humanitarian situation in Kabul was not such that it would, in itself, subject a person returned there to serious and personal danger. According to the Court’s assessment, the risk of an individual falling victim to violence is still relatively small in Kabul.

Change to previous position: internal flight to Kabul will only be considered in limited cases

If an applicant has been found to be in need of international protection in their home territory, the decision-making process will always involve consideration of whether they can resettle elsewhere in the home country, i.e. the possibility of internal flight.

According to the UNHCR's latest guidelines, internal flight to Kabul is not possible in general. The UNHCR states that the case must be assessed individually for each applicant, if internal flight to Kabul is being considered.

The Finnish Immigration Service is of the opinion that the general situation in Kabul has deteriorated with regard to internal flight. It has updated its policy in such a manner that internal flight to Kabul can only be considered on a case-by-case basis for two groups of applicants:

  • Healthy and able-bodied unmarried men who are not particularly vulnerable in any way.
  • Working age, healthy and childless married couples who are not particularly vulnerable and who have a safety net in Kabul.

An overall assessment is performed in all cases, and the possibility of internal flight is assessed individually. The fact that a person belongs to the above-mentioned applicant group does not automatically mean that internal flight is possible for them.

The Finnish Immigration Service does not require families with children to flee internally to Kabul.

The majority of decisions made on Afghans in 2018 have been positive

In the current year, asylum applications have been filed by around 175 Afghan citizens. About 63% of applicants on whom a decision has been taken received a positive decision, and around 25% a received a negative decision.

Some of the applications have lapsed or were not investigated, for example on the grounds that the applicant had previously applied for asylum in another EU country that is obliged to investigate the asylum application in question.

Around 760 applicants are currently awaiting a decision.

Further information for the media:

Jaana Vuorio, Director General, tel. +358 (0)295 430 431 email: firstname.lastname@migri.fi