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Refugee status to Afghan women and girls

Publication date 15.2.2023 14.23

In December 2022, the Finnish Immigration Service updated its guidelines regarding asylum applications submitted by Afghans. All Afghan women and girls are granted refugee status.

On the basis of country information, the position of women in Afghanistan has deteriorated significantly since the Taliban’s rise to power and still further in late 2022. Their rights and freedoms have been restricted significantly. 

Taking into account the combined effect of the implementation of the sharia law and other Taliban actions, all women are considered in the prevailing circumstances as categorically subject to persecution in Afghanistan. For them, the requirements for asylum are met on the basis of their gender alone. 

“Afghan women have very generally been granted asylum even before this, but gender has been only one of the many aspects taken into account in the decision-making process. Now gender alone is sufficient grounds for asylum,” says Director of Asylum Unit Antti Lehtinen.

The Finnish Immigration Service’s decision-making practice is in line with the report published by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) on 25 January 2023. 

“We cooperate closely with the EUAA. However, we were already taking proactive measures towards the end of the year and did not wait for the EUAA’s report,” says Lehtinen.

The position of Hazaras in Afghanistan has deteriorated

In December, the Finnish Immigration Service also updated its guidelines on the processing of the applications submitted by Afghans from a Hazara background. The updated guidelines are in line with the EUAA’s report, according to which the position of Hazaras has deteriorated in Afghanistan. 

“We are taking Hazara background more clearly into account in the overall assessment as an aspect that may influence the asylum seeker’s need for protection,” says Head of Section of the Asylum Unit Eeva-Maija Leivo.

Traditionally, Hazaras with Shia background have been discriminated against by the Taliban and the movement has violated their rights. The Afghanistan branch of the ISIS, ISKP, is also targeting Hazaras with violent attacks. However, in light of the up-to-date country information, it has not been possible to draw the conclusion that all Hazaras living in Afghanistan would need international protection. Instead, each asylum seeker’s individual circumstances must be taken into account. Circumstances that increase the risk include, for example, living in an area where the ISKP has operational capacity and makes attacks, participation in religious activities, and gender.

No decisions leading to removal from the country are made for Afghans

After 9 July 2021, Afghan asylum seekers have practically not been issued any negative decisions that would lead to removal from the country. The requirements for international protection have not been met for all Afghan asylum seekers but they may have been issued a residence permit on compassionate grounds, for example. 

In 2022, a total of 612 asylum decisions were made for Afghans, 511 of them positive. Of these Afghans, 394 were granted asylum, 7 received subsidiary protection and 110 were issued a residence permit on other grounds, such as compassionate grounds. Negative decisions were made for 24 Afghans. 

Negative decisions on asylum applications submitted by Afghans have been made when, for example, the criteria for international protection have not been met and the asylum seeker already has another residence permit for Finland. In other words, in these cases a negative decision has not led to removal from the country. 

In addition, last year, 17 applications expired and 60 were dismissed. Of the dismissed applications, the reasons for dismissal were as follows: 42 Afghans had received protection in another EU Member State and 18 applications were to be processed by another EU Member State.

The asylum investigation assesses each asylum seeker’s situation individually

The asylum investigation determines whether the asylum seeker needs asylum, in other words, refugee status. Asylum may be granted if the asylum seeker has a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their home country or country of permanent residence because of their origin, religion, nationality, membership in a certain social group or political opinions. Another requirement is that they cannot rely on the protection of the authorities of their home country or country of permanent residence because of the persecution they fear.

On the basis of their asylum application, the asylum seeker may be issued a residence permit on the basis of subsidiary protection if the requirements for asylum are not met. In this case, the asylum seeker has subsidiary protection status, which means international protection but not refugee status.

Subsidiary protection may be granted if the asylum seeker is under the threat of the death penalty, execution, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in their home country or country of permanent residence. Subsidiary protection may also be granted if the asylum seeker cannot return to their home country or country of permanent residence without facing serious personal danger because of an armed conflict that causes indiscriminate violence in that country. 

If the requirements for international protection are not met, the asylum seeker may also be issued a residence permit on compassionate grounds, for example. This kind of residence permit is issued if it would be manifestly unreasonable to make a negative decision on the application because of the applicant’s medical condition, ties to Finland or other individual, compassionate grounds. In this case, particular attention is paid to the conditions they would face in their home country or their vulnerable position.

Further information for the media

Eeva-Maija Leivo, Head of Section, tel. +358 (0)295 433 037, e-mail: