The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) announced today that it will review "approximately 500" negative decisions issued against asylum seekers who are currently facing deportation. The announcement comes a week after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision, which ruled that Finland violated the human rights of an Iraqi citizen who was killed in Baghdad weeks after being deported.
The Strasbourg court ruling has had immediate consequences in a country more accustomed to giving human rights lessons than to being reprimanded. Only two days later, the police and Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo announced the temporary suspension of deportations of asylum seekers to Iraq. Now, authorities intend to review one by one the cases of other people who have been denied a residence permit to ensure that their return does not amount to a death sentence.
According to Migri information, "about 500 asylum seekers in Finland" received an enforceable negative decision before the European Court of Justice issued its ruling. Those people, who are not only from Iraq, but also from other countries, are currently waiting to be removed from the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Migri and the police now want to make sure that their return does not involve risks to their lives and physical integrity.
Käymme läpi noin 500 viraston tekemää turvapaikkapäätöstä EIT:n 14.11. antaman ratkaisun takia. Tällä toimenpiteellä haluamme varmistaa, että mahdolliset vastaavat tapaukset on tunnistettu. #tphakijat https://t.co/hrJ8N6Sd2f— Maahanmuuttovirasto (@Maahanmuuttovir) November 22, 2019
Poliisi ja @Maahanmuuttovir ovat sopineet käytännön toimista, joilla varmistetaan, että #poliisi ei poista maasta henkilöitä joiden hakemus on Maahanmuuttoviraston tarkastelussa. https://t.co/ANNFYYkcZR— Suomen poliisi (@SuomenPoliisi) November 22, 2019
"We take the decision of the European Court of Justice very seriously and we have therefore decided to take these measures," says Director of the Finnish Immigration Service, Jaana Vuorio.
In practice, Migri wants to ensure that the handling of those cases has been done according to the requirements of the ECHR. And if there is any indication that the applicant's application has not been considered with all legal guarantees, the applicant may be asked to submit a new application. However, Migri warns that this does not mean that the residence permit will be granted.
Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo has also spoken on this thorny issue. And she has done so to back up the decisions of the Immigration agency and the police. "It is vital to ensure that the right to life is not violated", she said about the cases of immigrants who are returned to their countries of origin.
Viranomaiset ryhtyneet toimiin #EIT:n Suomelle antaman langettavan päätöksen johdosta.— Maria Ohisalo (@MariaOhisalo) November 22, 2019
On elintärkeää varmistaa, että palautuskieltoa ei rikota eikä kenenkään oikeutta elämään vastaan rikota.@Maahanmuuttovir käy n. 500 turvapaikkahakemusta läpi. https://t.co/yD5yAYVe7B
Migri said the decision of the ECHR will also affect other applicants whose asylum case is still pending on a decision of the Immigration authority or a court.
"We take the decision (of the ECHR) into consideration in all our operations. When examining new applications, we go through the previous decisions that the applicant received from the Finnish Immigration Service, and then also take into account the issues that were important in the decision of the European Court of Justice," says the director of the Migration Board's asylum unit. Antti Lehtinen.
On 14 November 2019, the European Court of Human Rights issued a sanction for Finland in an asylum case. In its ruling, the European Court of Justice considered that Finland had violated Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling concerns an Iraqi asylum seeker who sought international protection in Finland in 2015.
The Finnish Immigration service rejected his asylum application in 2016, the administrative court rejected his appeal and the Supreme Administrative Court denied him the right to further appeal. The applicant was sent back to Iraq in November 2017 and later was killed there.
Less asylum seekers arrived
According to Migri's figures, in 2015, approximately 32,000 asylum seekers arrived in Finland. In 2016, the Migration Board made about 28,000 asylum decisions. Currently, the number of asylum seekers coming to Finland is relatively low. The number of first asylum applications submitted this year is less than 2,200.
"In all cases, we must be able to identify with certainty an applicant in need of international protection, and this is what we want to ensure with our actions, "says Janna Vuorio.