Effect of a crime on asylum applications
The effect of a crime on a persons asylum application has been a hot topic since the attack in Turku on 18 August 2017.
Criminal investigations are the responsibility of the police
If an asylum seeker commits a crime, the authority responsible for the investigation and for keeping the public informed is the police.
Alleged criminal offences are investigated, charges brought if necessary and the offender taken to court. Those found guilty are punished regardless of where they are from.
If the offender is an asylum seeker whose asylum application is still pending, the criminal offence and the offender’s asylum application are investigated separately. If the offence is a homicide, the offender’s asylum application is fast-tracked.
Who can be removed from the country?
The Finnish Immigration Service refuses entry or deports all convicted criminals that they can by law.
If an individual’s residence permit or asylum application is refused, they must leave the country. Any criminal offences committed by applicants during the application process are taken into consideration when deciding on their refusal and prohibition of entry. The length of the prohibition of entry depends on the seriousness of the offence.
Deportation refers to the removal of individuals who have held a residence permit. If an individual has not had a residence permit in Finland, the official term is ‘refusal of entry’.
All decisions to remove an individual from the country are made on the basis of an overall legal evaluation of the case.
The individual’s ties to Finland, such as the length of their stay in Finland, their family, job or studies, are taken into account when deciding on their removal from the country.
Asylum cannot be refused on the basis of a crime committed in Finland
If an asylum seeker has the right to asylum and has refugee status, their asylum application cannot be refused even if they commit a serious crime in Finland. This is based on the Geneva Refugee Convention and the Finnish Aliens Act.
The Aliens Act states that asylum is not granted to foreign nationals if they have committed, or if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they have committed, a crime against peace, war crime or crime against humanity before entering Finland. Similarly, asylum must be refused to foreign nationals who have committed a serious non-political crime outside Finland before entering Finland or an act that violates the aims and principles of the United Nations.
Foreign nationals who have committed a crime can also be refused a residence permit on the basis of subsidiary protection.
However, even individuals who have committed serious crimes cannot be removed from the country if they would face the death penalty or execution, torture, persecution or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in their home country. This so-called non-refoulement principle, which the Finnish Immigration Service observes in all cases, is based on the Constitution of Finland, the Finnish Aliens Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Asylum seekers who have committed criminal offences and who do not have the right to asylum and have no refugee status and who can return safely to their home country are given a negative decision and refused entry.
Individuals who remain in Finland also still have criminal liability
Even if an asylum seeker is not forced to leave Finland due to a crime committed in Finland, they must serve their punishment for the offence in Finland.
Foreign nationals who have refugee status also have the right to be reunited with their family, but residence permits are not granted to family members of foreign nationals who are serving time in prison.
Offenders can be deported after a prison sentence if the circumstances that qualified them for refugee status have changed so that the individual no longer has the right to asylum in Finland.
Refugee status can be cancelled if it later transpires that asylum or subsidiary protection should not have been granted due to the fact that the asylum seeker has committed, or there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they have committed, a crime against peace, war crime or crime against humanity before entering Finland, a serious non-political crime outside Finland before entering Finland or an act which violates the aims and principles of the United Nations.
Refugee status can also be withdrawn if an asylum seeker is found to have deliberately given false information or concealed relevant facts.
Press and Communications Services, e-mail: [email protected], tel. +358 29 543 3037