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The standard of decisions on asylum applications has improved

11.5.2021 11.42

The number of errors in the interpretation of law and procedural faults in decisions on asylum applications was extremely low in the early part of 2021. Monitoring the errors in the interpretation of law and procedural faults is one of the most important indicators used in the quality assessment of decisions on asylum applications.

Between January and March 2021, the administrative courts processed 537 appeals on decisions on asylum applications, which were mainly based on decisions made by the Finnish Immigration Service in late 2019 and early 2020.

The number of errors in the interpretation of law and procedural faults was very low: one of each were detected (0.38%). The Supreme Administrative Court gave decisions on 378 cases, in which no errors in the interpretation of law or procedural faults were identified.

If a decision is returned for processing at the Finnish Immigration Service owing to an error in the interpretation of law or a procedural fault, this means that the administrative court has found the asylum application process flawed. The target set by the Ministry of the Interior is that less than 3% of the decisions are returned for processing due to errors in the interpretation of law and procedural faults.

“The most common reason for an application to be returned for processing is that the applicant has provided new information or their circumstances have changed since the Finnish Immigration Service gave its decision. Under the law, this warrants a reconsideration of the applicant’s situation”, says Tirsa Forssell, Head of Legal Services.

Among the most typical changes in an applicant’s circumstances is their conversion to Christianity or additional information provided on a conversion.

Quality assurance secures asylum seekers’ legal rights

The Finnish Immigration Service has developed its oversight of legality and quality assurance practices in many ways in the past few years. Decisions on asylum applications are reviewed, for example, by spot checks and controls focusing on certain specific aspects. Particular attention is paid to issues that are subject to recent legislative amendments, updated regulations or new legal practice.

The internal oversight of legality and quality assurance within the Finnish Immigration Service is conducted by the Legal Services, which operates separately from the decision-making units. One purpose of the oversight of legality and quality assurance is to ensure the legal protection of asylum seekers.

“The oversight of legality experts at the agency are constantly developing methods for monitoring the standard of decision-making. The goal is to identify any deviations and procedural problems, and to address these through guidance and training”, says Forssell.

UNHCR as a key partner

The Finnish Immigration Service continues its cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR. In 2021, on the request of the Finnish Immigration Service, UNHCR will be conducting a study on how well a child’s best interest has been considered in decisions on asylum applications. The report on the study will be published in 2022.

The best interest of a child is one of the central principles in all cases where the decision has an impact on a child’s life.

“The best interest of a child is determined for each child individually on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, the assessment always involves an element of interpretation. With this study, UNHCR will assess to what extent the best interest of a child has been a primary consideration in decision-making”, says Forssell.

Another theme currently under special interest is decisions related to human trafficking. Based on the findings, the aim is to develop decision-making processes in cases involving human trafficking. 

FACT: All appeals on decisions on asylum applications are processed by an administrative court

  • The Finnish Immigration Service is the first instance of decision-making in asylum matters. If an applicant receives a negative decision, they have the right to appeal the decision at an administrative court. A majority of those receiving a negative asylum decision appeal the decision.
  • The administrative court operates and makes its decision on the appeal independently. If the applicant’s circumstances change during the appeal process, the administrative court returns the decision to the Finnish Immigration Service for further processing.
  • The administrative court may reject the appeal or overrule the decision of the Finnish Immigration Service. If the administrative court overrules a decision, it returns the matter to the agency for reconsideration.
  • If the administrative court rejects an appeal, the applicant may take the appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court, if the Court grants leave to appeal. The Finnish Immigration Service may also apply for leave to appeal if this is essential from the perspective of the interpretation of law or the consistency of legal practice.
  • The legal practice of the administrative court and the Supreme Administrative Court decisions are binding on the Finnish Immigration Service.

Further information to the media:

Tirsa Forssell, Head of Legal Services, tel. +358 (0)295 433 037, email: [email protected]

Press release