Asylum seekers in Finland are facing failures in the legal assistance system during the refugee status application process, according to a report published this Wednesday by the Finnish Government.
The study highlights that there exist huge differences in the quality of the legal services that refugees access to. It also points out that it is common that the lawyers who provide the advice don´t understand each customer needs or what kind of services needs each asylum seeker.
Besides that, another problem is that some legal professionals refuse to take the legal aid cases that have something to do with asylum because they don´t get as much money as they expected.
Given these results, the Finnish Minister of Justice, Antti Häkkänen, whose office promotes the study, declared that “in a state governed by the rule of law, everyone must have an equal opportunity to have their case considered by a court. Legal aid enables everyone to pursue a legal process, even if they do not have any financial means. I commissioned this study so that we can develop the legal aid services provided in Finland”.
Häkkänen also stressed that the Government will use the conclusions of the report to, as far as possible, correct the detected malfunctions. “Now it is time for us to deliberate what kind of further action is needed. We have addressed the problems highlighted and the measures proposed in the report, and we are currently looking for further solutions”
The Minister of Justice also said that “together with the Ministry of the Interior, we will next assess the need to amend the provisions of the Aliens Act concerning the appeal periods and the scope of legal aid provided in asylum matters. These legislative amendments will be carefully assessed and prepared, in the same manner as all other legislative projects”. "We will also look for ways to guarantee a sufficient number of competent legal counsels dealing with asylum matters", Häkkänen concluded.
The report, as well as its conclusions, which have not been published in English yet, are still provisional and will be finalised in October.
Currently, state-funded legal aid can be granted to the asylum seekers for the duration of the entire asylum process, from making an application to the possible proceedings at the Supreme Administrative Court.
More than two-thirds of all asylum seekers have applied for state-funded legal aid. In 2015–2017, a total of 28,657 asylum seekers applied for legal aid, and 99% of them were granted legal aid. The remaining one-third had not applied for legal aid either because they had not been aware of this possibility or they had not felt that they need legal aid, the Finnish Government says.