Biaudet calls for review of asylum procedures of Migri

A queue of people outside an office of the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) in Helsinki on 24 March, 2017.

Eva Biaudet (SFP), the chairperson of the Parliament’s Human Rights Group, has demanded that an independent review be conducted into the asylum application procedures of the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).

She believes the audit is warranted due to a number of faults and shortcomings in the procedures.

“It is high time to conduct an independent audit into the asylum permit processes of Migri. It cannot be in accordance with good governance that over a third of the decisions [reviewed by administrative courts] are faulty to the extent that the courts refer them back for further processing,” she stated on 21 July, referring to a report by YLE.

The public broadcasting company reported one day earlier that 34.6 per cent of the roughly 3,000 appeals against negative asylum decisions processed in the first half of the year have resulted in the application being referred back to Migri. The share of referrals, it added, has grown steadily in recent months, having stood at 29 per cent at the end of April.

Raimo Pyysalo, a deputy director at Migri, points out that only four per cent of the referrals have been made on grounds of mistakes in interpreting the legislation and that the majority of them were related to asylum decisions made last year.

“They probably reflected our lack of experience, but I’m confident that our decisions are now of a very high quality,” he says to Uusi Suomi.

“Our current staff is quite experienced. Even our newer people have been working for one-and-a-half years or more.”

Pyysalo reveals that most of the decisions to refer applications for reconsideration were made on grounds of changes in the circumstances of the applicant. Such changes were the grounds for referral in almost one-fifth (19.4%) of the 2,900 cases considered by administrative courts this year.

An additional 10,000 appeals have yet to be processed by administrative courts, according to Pyysalo.

He adds that a change in circumstances likely indicates that the asylum applicant has converted to Christianity after their initial application was turned down by Migri. Administrative courts are unable to rule on cases where the initial asylum decision has not taken the conversion into consideration.

“Administrative courts can’t rule on such cases because further inquiries are needed. We principally have to interview the applicant again and review the situation as a whole,” explains Pyysalo.

Päivi Räsänen (CD), an ex-Minister of the Interior, told Uusi Suomi on 22 July that she is concerned that unsuccessful applicants are being sent back to regions where their well-being and even life may be in danger, partly due to the lack of expertise of the officials processing the applications.

Pyysalo rejects such suggestions.

“I’m not worried about the quality of work by our senior inspectors, but what we had at the start were surely human errors in interpreting the law,” he states, reminding that the number of officials was raised substantially in response to the unprecedented flow of asylum seekers to Finland in 2015.

Räsänen also proposed that in light of the difficulty of verifying the authenticity of a conversion, officials should approach all publicly baptised asylum applicants as Christians. “No matter how deep your faith, it should be enough to justify [granting asylum]. It isn’t any more acceptable to be a Christian in name only in an extremist Islamic community,” she argued.

Pyysalo admitted that while such guidelines would clarify the work of officials, they could also create problems due to the differences in the baptism practices of congregations.

“If submitting a certificate of baptism to an administrative court resulted automatically in a decision not to deport, it would be helpful, but I don’t see such an approach as either practical or functional,” he comments.

The Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) has ruled that officials must carefully look into the firmness of the religious beliefs of asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva

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