All circumstances affecting the matter must be taken into account in asylum decisions
Today, the Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman published a pilot study on the decisions of the Finnish Immigration Service concerning international protection in 2015–2017. The data consists of 243 decisions issued to Iraqis aged 18 to 34 during the summers of 2015 and 2017.
The findings of the study indicate that when it comes to Iraqis who apply for international protection, the agency’s decision-making practices and the share of positive decisions have changed.
During the said period, the agency’s decision-making has been affected by, amongst other things, an international comparison of asylum decision practises that was included in the government’s action plan on asylum policy published at the end of 2015. Finland committed to harmonising asylum practices with the EU and the Nordic countries. In particular, Finland was compared with Sweden because both countries must follow the same EU norms when making asylum decisions.
Evaluating the credibility of an individual asylum seeker’s account is essential
According to the study, no significant changes have taken place in asylum seekers’ gender or family structure but the number of Shiites increased sixfold and the share of Sunnis decreased from 76 per cent to 44 per cent. The Finnish Immigration Service estimates that the applicant profile changed in autumn 2015 because a large number of young Iraqi men arrived in Finland.
It is not yet possible to draw definitive conclusions on whether there have been changes in how often the asylum seekers’ accounts are considered credible by studying decisions issued during a certain short time period.
To reach a more definitive conclusion, researchers should study all the evidence that the assessment of credibility is based on, including asylum interview protocols and other materials that the agency has had at its disposal. The decisions of the Administrative Courts should also be studied.
Evaluation is based on several factors, including country of origin information
When an asylum decision is made, the asylum seeker’s home country and up-to-date country information are an important part of the process. These are factors that the study did not address.
One of the statutory duties of the Finnish Immigration Service is assessing the security situation of countries on the basis of current country of origin information. Under the government’s action plan on asylum policy, the agency has an obligation to assess the security situation in main countries of origin (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia).
According to the assessment of the security situation made in the autumn of 2015, the situation had eased in many areas in Iraq. Before that, all asylum seekers coming from areas such as central Iraq were granted at least a residence permit on the basis of subsidiary protection. This practice differed from Sweden. The agency’s new practice concerning Iraqis was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court in November 2016 (decisions KHO:2016:194 and KHO:2016:193).
During 2015–2017, the Finnish Immigration Service issued a decision to approximately 45,000 applicants. About 24,000 of them were Iraqis.
- In 2017, 38 per cent of the applicants coming from Iraq received a positive decision, whereas in 2015 the share was 85 per cent.
- In 2017, 33 per cent of Iraqis aged 18 to 34 received a positive decision, whereas in 2015 the share was 85 per cent.
It is good to bear in mind that court decisions, too, have shaped the decision-making practice and affected the decisions made in 2017.
All asylum applications are examined and decided individually. The goal of the Finnish Immigration Service and its decision-making is that international protection is always granted to those who need it.
Quality of decisions is constantly monitored
The Finnish Immigration Service is constantly controlling the quality of its decisions. Legal certainty is guaranteed by analysing legal cases and providing instructions and training.
The legality and quality of decisions and interviews is continuously reviewed by the agency. The legality of decisions is also monitored by the Administrative Courts and the Supreme Administrative Court. Quality control and supervision are also improved with the help of EU-funded projects.