The Finnish Immigration Service updates its guidelines for Afghanistan – decisions issued to all Afghan applicants
The Finnish Immigration Service has updated its guidelines for Afghanistan. The Finnish Immigration Service has gathered sufficient information about the different provinces in Afghanistan to resume its decision-making regarding asylum applications from all Afghans.
On 9 July 2021, the Finnish Immigration Service suspended issuing negative decisions to Afghan citizens that would entail removal from the country. The decision-making was suspended because significant changes were taking place in the security situation and government of Afghanistan and the situation was extremely unstable.
The suspension was planned as a temporary measure, but the unstable situation in Afghanistan was prolonged. The problems in obtaining up-to-date country information, which is essential for decision-making, have been considerable. For this reason, the Finnish Immigration Service decided to issue instructions for decision-making in stages and update the instructions when the Country Information Service of the service was able to produce information on specific provinces within Afghanistan.
The Finnish Immigration Service has now gathered sufficient, updated country information from Afghanistan concerning the different provinces and it has been able to start making decisions for all its Afghan clients. The Finnish Immigration Service published its latest version of the instructions for decision-making on Afghanistan on 28 February 2023.
“In practice, no decisions to return Afghan asylum seekers have been issued since 9 July 2021. If an asylum seeker does not meet the criteria for international protection, they can usually be granted a discretionary residence permit based on humanitarian reasons,” says special adviser Laura Suominen.
The Finnish Immigration Service is actively monitoring the development of the security situation in Afghanistan and updates its instructions for decision-making should any major changes take place in the security situation of a specific province in the country.
“Our processing and decisions are always based on up-to-date country information and developments, such as the attack carried out by ISKP, the Afghani-based branch of ISIS, and other anti-Taliban militant groups, and the impacts of these attacks on civilians,” says Suominen.
The Finnish Immigration Service is working closely with the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) to accurately assess the security situation in Afghanistan.
“We take EUAA guidelines on the security situation in Afghanistan into account when updating our own instructions, and our conclusions of the situation in Afghanistan is similar to EUAA’s assessments,” Suominen says.
The situation in Afghanistan in unstable – all women and girls will receive asylum
The situation in Afghanistan continues to be unstable. The conflict between the previous Afghan government and the US-led alliance and the Taliban has ceased. However, conflicts between the Taliban and the terrorist organisation ISKP and between the Taliban and local resistance movements have continued. In addition, the humanitarian situation in the country is serious. However, the number of acts of violence caused by armed conflict has decreased in the entire country since the Taliban came to power.
Currently, the level of indiscriminate violence is not extremely high in any of the provinces of Afghanistan, so that those fleeing the area could be granted subsidiary protection status automatically based on their country of residence. According to the Finnish Immigration Service guidelines updated in December 2022, all Afghan women and girls seeking asylum in Finland are granted refugee status because the position of women in Afghanistan has deteriorated significantly since the Taliban’s rise to power and still further in late 2022.
Asylum seekers’ personal circumstances given more emphasis
There is currently one province in Afghanistan, the Province of Panjshir, where the level of violence is categorised as high. The role of the personal circumstances of those fleeing from Panjshir are therefore minor when assessing the need for subsidiary protection on the basis of place of residence.
However, there are several provinces in Afghanistan where indiscriminate violence occurs at levels where the personal circumstances of an asylum seeker carry more weight in the subsidiary protection assessment. These provinces include Kabul, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Parwan, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Kapisa and Takhar.
“For example, a person’s Hazara background is taken into account increasingly as a factor that may affect the need for protection. We are currently granting asylum to Hazaras and Shiite Muslims from Nangarhar or Kunar provinces and the city of Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif or Kunduz,” says Eeva-Maija Leivo, Head of Section.
In certain regions in Afghanistan, civilians have a low risk of falling victim to indiscriminate violence caused by the armed conflict. This refers to situations where there is no ongoing armed conflict in a province where two or more armed factions would engage in battles with each other. The assessment also covers a situation where there are so few annual attacks caused by armed conflict in the region that the conflict poses no personal danger to civilians in the region.
However, even if a client was not be in real danger of serious harm caused by armed conflict in a particular region, returning to such a region is not generally considered safe for everyone. Clients from any province of Afghanistan may nonetheless meet the criteria for asylum or subsidiary protection based on the assessment of the client’s personal risk of harm.
The alternative of internal protection is not currently being applied to asylum seekers from Afghanistan. The internal protection alternative refers to an assessment of whether an asylum seeker, having fled one region of his or her home country, could settle in another.
Fact: What are country guidelines?
- Country-specific instructions for decision-making, also known as country guidelines, refer to the Finnish Immigration Service’s guidance and assessment of, for example, the level of armed violence in different regions of the country of origin and the risk of serious harm to civilians as a result of armed conflict in a particular region.
- Country guidelines also provide guidance on the circumstances in which internal protection could be applied. The guidance is based on the law, available country information and current legal practice.
- The level of violence caused by armed conflict is assessed regionally, on a scale from low to extremely high. When the level of violence in a certain area is estimated to be extreme, all those present there are considered in danger.
- Factors that affect the assessment include the number of security incidents and civilians killed or injured, the way the violence is manifested, the number of internally displaced persons, the nature of the conflict and its geographical scope, and the everyday living conditions of the local population.
- The Country Information Service of the Finnish Immigration Service collects country data from a variety of sources including the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, research institutes, country information services in other countries, international and local human rights organisations, NGOs, and international news agencies. Country information researchers form an international network. The exchange of information among European countries, in particular, on situations in the countries of origin is regular and active. Different authorities also cooperate under the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA). The most important countries of origin, such as Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, have their own networks of researchers in which the Finnish Immigration Service also participates.
Further information to the media:
- Instructions for decision-making on Afghanistan, Laura Suominen, Special Adviser, Legal Service and Country Information Unit, tel. +358 (0)295 433 037, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Processing and decision-making on the applications of Afghan asylum seekers, Eeva-Maija Leivo, Head of Section, Asylum Unit, tel. +358 (0)295 433 037, e-mail: email@example.com
- Press release 15 February 2023: Refugee status to Afghan women and girls
- Customer bulletin 20 March 2023: Are you an asylum seeker from Afghanistan in Finland? Read below for current information about the processing of your application
- Instructions for decision-making (in Finnish): Ohje afganistanilaisten turvapaikanhakijoiden kansainvälistä suojelua koskevien hakemusten käsittelystä ja ratkaisemisesta (pdf)