Updated situation reports for Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia

20.6.2018 12.47
Press release

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

In Afghanistan and Somalia, the situation remains unstable. Also Iraq has several areas where the level of violence is still high. In contrast, the situation in for example Mosul, which used to be under ISIS control, is more stable than before, and remigration to the area continues.

Asylum seekers are always granted international protection if they are at risk of personal persecution or serious harm everywhere in their home country. 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 give him or her the right to get international protection.

The circumstances of each asylum seeker are assessed on an individual basis. In each case, the agency examines whether the person in question is at risk of persecution or serious harm if he or she returns to his or her home country. If there is such a risk, the agency will investigate whether the person in question may settle in another area in his or her home country where this risk is not present.

The so called internal flight alternative is always assessed case by case, taking the applicant’s personal circumstances into account. Internal flight is not required of everyone: for example unaccompanied minors or lone women without a safety network are not required to relocate within their home countries. Internal flight is not required either if it is probable that the asylum seeker would have to live in an internal refugee camp in his or her home country.

The situation reports of the Finnish Immigration Service are updated every six months. Because the security situation in the countries in question can change quickly, the agency’s decision-makers always check the latest country information when making a decision. If the situation in the countries of origin changes, the decision-making practices are altered as necessary in between reports.

Return to regions freed from ISIS continues

According to the updated situation report on Iraq, there are currently no areas where the level of armed violence would be so extreme that anyone returning to the area would be at risk of being subjected to armed violence. However, an applicant’s personal circumstances might put him or her at a greater risk of violence than an average member of the population, and this is always taken into account when asylum decisions are made.

The security situation in Iraq varies, and there are still several areas where the level of violence is high. These areas include the districts of Tarmia, Mada’in and Abu Ghraib, which surround the city of Baghdad, the district of Hawija in the Kirkuk province, and Mosul, which used to be under ISIS control.

As thousands of people who have fled within the country are returning to their home regions, Iraq has entered a new phase. During the last months, remigration has continued steadily. The most noticeable rebel group of the country is still ISIS, from whom cities have been reclaimed. This terrorist organisation does, however, still control some outlying desert areas and abandoned villages in different districts. Having lost many of its areas, ISIS has shifted to conducting guerilla activities in different regions.

Even though terrorism has not yet been rooted out of Iraq, the number of civilians who are killed or injured because of an armed conflict has been falling steadily. Furthermore, the first elections since the recapture of regions from ISIS were held in May.

Security situation in Afghanistan remains unstable

The security situation in Afghanistan has been unstable even this year. The threat of indiscriminate violence is extremely high in certain parts of the country, which is why no one will be returned to these areas. These areas still include

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

The political climate in Afghanistan is influence by the parliamentary and local elections scheduled to be held in October. The rebels have continued to attack civilian targets especially in Kabul. Attacks have been carried out against international and national actors, the Shia minority, journalists, religious leaders and actors involved in arranging elections.

The Taliban’s fighting season started in May with attacks conducted in the provinces of Farah and Ghazni. The Taliban movement has consolidated its position in the rural areas it had taken over earlier, but it has not managed to extend its sphere of influence to new areas in any substantial way. During the beginning of the year, the number of civilian victims remained on the same level as in 2016 and 2017.

Southern and Central Somalia are the most affected parts of the country

In Somalia, the human rights and security situation remains difficult. Southern and Central Somalia have the most difficult circumstances, because the battles between al-Shabaab and the government have continued there. The security situation remains unstable also in the capital city Mogadishu.

Conflicts between clans have caused insecurity in different parts of the country, and the conflicts have been intensified by the long period of drought and the shortage of pasture land and water. During the rainy season that began in the spring, the exceptionally high rainfall ended the drought but caused large floods and worsened the living conditions in the country.

In spite of all this, the situation is not such that anyone originating from Somalia has grounds for asylum or subsidiary protection solely on the basis of their place of origin. The situation of each asylum seeker is assessed individually.

Further information for the media

  • Senior Adviser Juuso Hyvärinen, Legal Service and Country Information Unit, tel. +358 295 430 431, email: [email protected]
Facts: Legislation central to asylum decisions

Asylum (Aliens Act, section 87, subsection 1)

  • A person can be granted asylum if he or she has a well-founded fear of being persecuted in his or her home country or country of permanent residence.
  • The reason for persecution must be ethnic origin, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
  • The person has to be unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of the home country or the country of permanent residence because of this fear.

Subsidiary protection (Aliens Act, section 88, subsection 1):

  • Subsidiary protection can be granted if the requirements for granting asylum are not met, but substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person, if returned, would face a real risk of being subjected to serious harm.
  • Serious harm means:
    • the death penalty or execution;
    • torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
    • serious and individual threat as a result of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflicts.

Internal flight alternative (Aliens Act, section 88e):

  • Asylum or subsidiary protection may be refused if the person does not have a well-founded reason to fear to be persecuted or face a real risk of being subjected to serious harm in a part of his or her home country or country of permanent residence and he or she has access to protection there.
  • The person must be able to return safely and legally to the other part of the country and reasonably be expected to reside there. When assessing this, the general circumstances and the applicant's personal circumstances must be taken into account.

                                            Facts: Country of Origin Information is part of asylum decisions 

  • At the Finnish Immigration Service, researchers from the Country Information Service prepare a report on the security situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia every six months. These are the countries from which the most asylum seekers have come to Finland in recent years.
  • The information is gathered from several different sources. The sources include the UN refugee agency UNHCR, international and local human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, research institutes, and researchers from other immigration services.
  • Based on the researchers’ reports, the Legal Service and the Asylum Unit of the Finnish Immigration Service formulate a country guideline, which includes an assessment of the types of situations in which asylum seekers can be granted subsidiary protection on the basis of the security situation in their home country.
  • The level of violence caused by an armed conflict is evaluated regionally, on a scale from low to extremely high.
  • Factors that affect the assessment include the number of civilians killed or injured, how the violence is manifested, the number of people who have fled internally, the nature of the conflict and its geographical sphere of influence and the everyday living conditions of the local population.
Press release