Review of asylum decisions by the Finnish Immigration Service due to ECHR decision completed, results to be used to develop operations
Due to a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued on 14 November 2019, the Finnish Immigration Service has reviewed 319 of its final asylum decisions.
Initially, the agency estimated that it would need to review approximately 500 decisions. However, the actual number of decisions to review proved to be lower than that, because the initial estimate included applicants who had a pending appeal or who had submitted a subsequent asylum application after 14 November 2019.
“The review was performed to ensure that all potentially similar cases have been duly identified and that there are no cases where there are grounds to suspect a risk of violating the principle of non-refoulement among any of the applicants who are waiting to be removed from the country,” says Antti Lehtinen, Director of Asylum Unit at the Finnish Immigration Service.
Out of the decisions reviewed, 309 decisions (97 per cent) had been processed as required by the ECHR decision. A total of 10 decisions (3 per cent) contained deficiencies relevant to the review. The Finnish Immigration Service has asked the ten persons who received these decisions to submit a new asylum application.
The deficiencies discovered were closely scrutinised
The review was conducted on final asylum decisions issued by the Finnish Immigration Service in cases where the applicant was waiting for removal from the country but did not have a matter regarding international protection pending at the Finnish Immigration Service or in court on 14 November 2019.
When reviewing a case, the Finnish Immigration Service went over all the necessary material, depending on the case.
“All deficiencies discovered during the review were closely inspected, and we did not only focus on cases that were identical to the one the ECHR decision concerned. Applicants whose decisions contained deficiencies relevant to the review were asked to re-apply for asylum,” says Lehtinen.
The European Court of Human Rights concluded in its decision that Finland has violated Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In its decision, the court paid particular attention to the failure of Finnish authorities to adequately assess the level of future risk.
In the review, the Finnish Immigration Service discovered different types of quality-related problems in ten decisions, most of which were issued in 2016–2017. In addition to deficiencies in assessing future risk, in some of the decisions, for instance, the causal link between violations of rights was not investigated thoroughly enough.
As a result of the review, the Finnish Immigration Service sent all ten applicants a recommendation to re-apply for asylum at their nearest police station. The applicants come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, submitting a new asylum application does not yet mean that the applicant will be granted a residence permit. The new application will be processed as required by the ECHR decision, and a new assessment of the grounds for granting international protection is made.
Discoveries leading to further improvements in the asylum process
The ECHR decision is observed in all activities of the Finnish Immigration Service. Immediately after the ECHR decision, the personnel of the Asylum Unit received further training and further instructions on assessing future risk.
“A lot has been done to improve the asylum process since 2015. The results of this review will be utilised when we develop our operations further,” says Lehtinen.
Based on the discoveries, the Finnish Immigration Service is implementing the following improvements without delay:
- In 2020, the Finnish Immigration Service will change the structure of its asylum decisions by making the assessment of future risk a separate section in the decision.
- In the spring of 2020, the Finnish Immigration Service will improve the practices and instructions regarding the processing of subsequent applications to ensure that an applicant in need of international protection will be identified in any situation.
- In 2020, one of the year's themes for the Asylum Unit’s legality control will be the processing and admissibility of subsequent applications. One of the goals is to inspect whether the factors referred to in the ECHR decision have been adequately considered in decisions.
- The Finnish Immigration Service will continue its close cooperation with the UNHCR in quality control matters. The agency has already conducted preliminary discussions with the UNHCR about having the organisation investigate whether the factors referred to in the ECHR decision have been duly considered in recent decisions by the Finnish Immigration Service.
- Antti Lehtinen, Director of Asylum Unit, tel. 0295 433 037, email: [email protected]