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As a signatory state Finland is fully committed to the UN Refugee Convention 1951. The asylum procedure should be based on individual consideration of every application within a normal or accelerated procedure.
Finland also accepts quota refugees for resettlement. They are considered to be refugees by the UNHCR or other foreigners in need of international protection. In recent years, the annual quota has been 750. Finland has in recent years accepted in a quota especially refugees from Iraq, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo and Iran.
Asylum procedure diagrams
Leaving the application unprocessed and accelerated procedure
Refugee status is defined in the UN Refugee Convention. The Convention does not, however, have regulations on asylum procedures. These procedures differ a lot in different countries, even within the European Union.
In Finland the regulations on asylum procedures are included in the Aliens Act.
Applications for asylum are submitted to the police or to the passport control officer. Asylum seekers are then transferred to reception centres located in different parts of Finland.
If the identity of the asylum seeker or his/her travel route are unclear, the police may detain the asylum seeker upon arrival in Finland. Also asylum seekers who have received negative decisions can be detained before deportation.
The detention centre is located in Helsinki. It has 40 places. In other parts of Finland asylum seekers are still kept in police premises.
Usually detention lasts from a few days to some weeks but can last up to a few months. Detention cases have to be taken to a District Court hearing every two weeks. The District Court decides whether the asylum seeker should be released or kept in detention.
The police or the Frontier Guard investigates the applicant's identity and travel route e.g. by making finger print enquiries to other European countries in order to establish whether the applicant has arrived to Finland via another EU country (or Norway, Switzerland, Iceland). If the applicant has been in another EU country, he/she can be returned to that country according to the Dublin II Regulation.
The Finnish Immigration Service conducts the actual asylum interview. The Finnish Immigration Service makes the asylum decision based on the written asylum protocol. This is why it is important that the applicant´s account of events is written down correctly and completely.
The Finnish Immigration Service makes the asylum decision after the asylum interview. If the decision is positive, the applicant is usually granted either a refugee status or a residence permit based on subsidiary or humanitarian protection. Subsequently the refugee will be appointed a placement in a municipality and is entitled to integration measures.
A negative decision can be made either in a normal or in an accelerated procedure. The choice of the procedure has consequences for example in the manner that the asylum seeker can be expelled after having received the decision.
Leaving an application unprocessed
An asylum application can be left unprocessed if
1) the applicant has arrived from a safe country of asylum where he or she could have been granted asylum or a residence permit based on a need for protection, and where he or she can be returned.
2) the applicant can be sent on to another country that is responsible for the processing of the asylum application.
In the first case the applicant can appeal to the Helsinki Administrative Court within 30 days but the decision can be executed after 8 days (of which 5 days have to be working days) from the notification. If an application is made to the Helsinki Administrative Court to suspend the expulsion, the Court has to issue an interim decision to prohibit enforcement within the same 8 days time limit. In the last case the applicant can also appeal to the Helsinki Administrative Court within 30 days but the decision (expulsion) can be executed immediately.
Accelerated asylum procedures
The asylum application can go into an accelerated procedure if
1) the applicant makes a new asylum application that does not contain new grounds for staying in the country,
2) the applicant has come to Finland from a safe country or origin,
3) the application is considered manifestly unfounded.
In the above mentioned case 1) the decision can be appealed to the Helsinki Administrative Court within 30 days from the notification of the decision. The expulsion can, however, be executed immediately after the notification. This means that the asylum seeker does not have the right to wait in Finland until the appeal has been decided on.
In cases 2) and 3) the applicant can also appeal to the Helsinki Administrative Court within 30 days from the notification. The expulsion can, however, be executed after 8 days (of which 5 days have to be working days) from the notification. If an application is made to the Helsinki Administrative Court to suspend the expulsion, the Court has to make the interim decision within the same 8 days time limit.
In practice this means that if the applicant wants to wait for the appeal decision in Finland, then she/he has to get a lawyer very quickly. The application to suspend the expulsion has to be made to the Helsinki Administrative Court almost immediately after notification of the negative decision.
If the Helsinki Administrative Court has not been able to decide on the application to suspend the expulsion within the 8 days time limit, the expulsion can be enforced. This is, of course, also the case when the Court decides that it is not necessary for the applicant to stay in Finland until the appeal has been decided on. The Court, however, always makes a decision concerning the appeal even if the applicant has been expelled.
Appeal in the normal procedure
In the normal asylum procedure the negative decision of the Finnish Immigration Service can be appealed to the Helsinki Administrative Court within 30 days of the notification. The applicant can wait in Finland until the appeal has been decided on. The Court can also decide to have an oral hearing.
If the Court reverses the decision of the Finnish Immigration Service, it can decide to give the applicant a refugee status or a residence permit based on subsidiary or humanitarian protection. The expulsion can also be suspended for other reasons.
Applying a leave to appeal from the Supreme Administrative Court
If the Helsinki Administrative Court does not change the decision of the Finnish Immigration Service, the decision can be appealed further to the Supreme Administrative Court only if the Supreme Administrative Court grants a leave to appeal. The expulsion can, however, be executed after the notification of the decision made by the Helsinki Administrative Court.
Merely the negative suspension decision of the Helsinki Administrative Court cannot be appealed to Supreme Administrative Court.
If a leave to appeal is granted and the case is still reconsidered in the Supreme Administrative Court, the decision can be either positive or negative. In practice, the Supreme Administrative Court grants a leave to appeal very seldom and the decision of the Helsinki Administrative Court is usually the final decision.
The right of the Finnish Immigration Service to appeal
If the Supreme Administrative Court grants leave of appeal, the Finnish Immigration Service can appeal the Administrative Court's decision that has rejected or amended the first instance decision.
Problems in the procedures
The accelerated asylum procedures in Finland have been widely critized. The legal safeguards are not sufficient considering the interests of asylum seekers. The timeframe of eight days for the enforcement of the expulsion decision is too short for applicant to prepare the appeal, including appropriate legal and interpretation assistance. Within eight days the Helsinki Administrative should also process the application and give the decision. NGOs have presented that the timeframe of eight days should be given up and the expulsion should not be executed before the Administrative Court has dealt with the case.
A refugee or a person who has a residence permit based on subsidiary or humanitarian protection has a right to get his/her family reunited in Finland. Family members who have the right to receive a residence permit in the family reunification procedure are the applicant´s spouse and unmarried children who are under 18 years of age.
Negative family reunification decisions of the Finnish Immigration Service can be appealed to the administrative courts.
The Refugee Advice Centre is a non-governmental organisation which provides free legal aid to asylum seekers in Finland. The Refugee Advice Centre gives basic information on the asylum procedure to asylum seekers coming to Finland. The lawyers also make appeals to courts and assist the asylum seekers before the first instance decision. Asylum seekers also have an opportunity to have a lawyer present at the asylum interview.
Refugee Advice Centre