Updated situational reviews of Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia

18.12.2017 12.59
Press release

The Finnish Immigration Service has updated its situational reviews of the security situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

The situation in all three states continues to be unstable and has worsened in certain areas. For example, the level of violence in Afghanistan is at an extremely high level in even more areas than before. No one will be returned to such areas. On the other hand, major changes occurred in the situation in Iraq in the summer and autumn, as further victories were won in the fight against ISIS.

Simply stating that an adult or an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker is originally from a certain area in any of these three countries will not automatically grant him or her the right to international protection. Asylum seekers from all countries are always granted international protection if they are at risk of personal persecution or serious harm in their home country.

According to the recent policy of the Supreme Administrative Court, it must always be ensured that an unaccompanied minor is always returned into the care of a family member or appointed guardian, or that appropriate reception has been organised. In practice, the minor’s return to his or her home country must always be arranged with the authorities or the guardians of the minor.

Although our reports are updated every six months, we always make our decisions based on the latest country information. The security situation in these countries can vary extremely quickly, and therefore the strict instruction for decision-makers is to check the latest country information when making a decision. If the situation in the countries of origin changes, decision-making practices are altered as necessary in between reports.

The war in Afghanistan is in a stalemate

During the fighting in 2017, the Taliban has not conquered large residential centres, but has expanded its sphere of power in the countryside. The ISIS branch in Afghanistan has carried out terrorist attacks, particularly against the Shia minority of the country.

The United States has taken a more active role in the fighting, resulting in an increase in both air strikes and consequent civilian fatalities. However, the total number of civilian fatalities has decreased slightly compared with 2016. The number of people who have been forced to flee internally is also declining.

The threat of arbitrary violence is extremely high in certain areas of the country, and no one will be returned to those areas. These areas are:

  • Helmand Province
  • the Tirin Kot, Dehrawud and Chora districts in Urozgan
  • southern districts of Nangarhar Province: Achin, Kot, Nazyan, Chaparhar, Bati Kot, Pachir wa Agam, Khogiani and Deh Bala/Haska Mina
  • the Ghorak, Khakriz, Maiwand, Nish and Shah Wali Kot districts in Kandahar Province.

The districts of Kandahar Province, the Kohgiani district of Nangarhar Province, and the Chora district of Urozgan Province have been added to the list after the spring 2017 situational review.

The possibility of internal flight is determined for all asylum seekers, that is, whether it would be possible for them to relocate to another area in their home country. These decisions are made on an individual basis and take all the personal circumstances of the asylum seeker into consideration. This why those originating from the above-mentioned areas are not automatically granted international protection.

However, internal flight is not required of unaccompanied minors that have come to Finland. In addition, lone women are not required to flee internally to a part of the country where they do not have a safety network.

Internal flight also does not apply if it is probable that the asylum seeker would have to live in an internal evacuee camp upon their return.

The situation in Somalia has remained unstable

General security conditions in Somalia have remained unstable, and the country has suffered a serious drought and humanitarian crisis. By the end of October of this year, 1,062,000 people had had to relocate internally, most commonly due to drought.

The situation in the capital Mogadishu remains unstable and there are also attacks with civilian casualties. However, the situation is not such that anyone originating from Mogadishu has grounds for asylum or subsidiary protection solely on the basis of their place of origin. The European Court of Human Rights and Finnish Administrative Courts have also held in their case law that the security situation in Mogadishu is not such that everyone residing in the city would be in danger of serious rights violations solely because they live there.

Decisions regarding each asylum seeker are made on an individual basis and it is determined whether they can relocate to another area in their home country. The city of Mogadishu is the most common destination for those fleeing internally. For example, internal flight is not required of unaccompanied minors, lone women without a safety network, and families without a provider fit for work.

Internal flight also does not apply if it is probable that the asylum seeker would have to live in an internal evacuee camp upon their return.

No one is returned to active front lines in Iraq

The situation in Iraq saw continuous and significant changes in summer and autumn 2017. The Iraqi Armed Forces and supporting militias have continued to triumph over ISIS. By the end of November, ISIS had lost all the cities and larger areas it had controlled in Iraq.

In Iraq, the threat of violence on active front lines is extremely high and therefore no one will be returned to these areas. Furthermore, no one will be returned to certain areas that have recently been liberated from ISIS control such as Mosul. The security situation can change very fast in these areas and the situation is being constantly monitored.

Decision-makers always assess whether an asylum seeker can relocate to another area of their home country. If internal flight is possible, even asylum seekers originating from the abovementioned areas will not be granted international protection.

The security situation in the city of Baghdad has improved significantly in 2017. The campaign of terrorist strikes ISIS targeted at Baghdad in 2014–2016 waned in autumn 2016, when the operation to conquer Mosul began. At the same time, the Baghdad operational centre focused on cleaning up the countryside around Baghdad, and ISIS withdrew its forces. The improved security situation in Baghdad can be seen from the active street life in the city and the discontinuation of numerous security checkpoints.

Internal flight to Baghdad continues to not apply to Sunnis fleeing ISIS-controlled areas, if their rights are in danger of violation by Shia militia and they do not receive protection from the authorities. Furthermore, internal flight is not required of unaccompanied minors, lone women without a safety network, and families without a provider fit for work.

Internal flight also does not apply if it is probable that the asylum seeker would have to live in an internal evacuee camp upon their return.

Additional information for the media

Hanna Helinko, Director of Legal Service and Country Information Unit, tel. +358 (0)295 430 431, email: [email protected]

Facts: Key legislation pertaining to asylum decisions

Asylum (Aliens Act, Section 87 (1))

  • Asylum may be granted if the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country or country of permanent residence.
  • The persecution must stem from ethnic origin, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
  • The person must be unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of their home country or another country due to this fear.

Subsidiary protection (Aliens Act, Section 88 (1))

  • Subsidiary protection may be granted when the criteria for asylum are not met, yet there are justifiable grounds to believe that the person would be at real risk of being subjected to serious harm if they were to return.
  • Serious harm means:
    • the death penalty or execution
    • torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
    • serious and personal danger as a result of indiscriminate violence resulting from international or internal armed conflict.

Internal flight (Aliens Act, Section 88 e)

  • Asylum or subsidiary protection may not be granted if the applicant would not be at risk of persecution or serious harm in some part of their home country or country of permanent residence, and could find protection there.
  • The person must be able to safely and legally return to another area, and must reasonably be expected to reside there. The prevailing circumstances and applicant’s personal situation are taken into account when making this assessment.