Supreme Administrative Court grants asylum to 19-year-old facing death threats in Afghanistan

The decision reverses one made by Finnish immigration officials who claimed the young man would not be threatened in Kabul, Afghanistan.

File photo. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Finland's Supreme Administrative Court has approved the asylum application of a 19-year-old Afghan whose initial application was rejected by the Immigration Service (Migri).

The 19-year-old is from a wealthy and well-known family in Afghanistan that has worked against the Taliban, according to daily Helsingin Sanomat.

When he was 16 years old, according to the paper, he enrolled in an Afghan army prep school, which led to the Taliban threatening him and kidnapping his sister.

When his application was rejected, Migri ruled that the man could return to Afghanistan and live in the capital Kabul without the risk of persecution or death, despite the fact he was not originally from the city.

Finland's highest administrative court disagreed, however, and in its decision said, "In principle a healthy, unmarried and able-bodied man can be expected to live in Kabul, even if he has no relatives or other networks in the city."

But, the court elaborated, given the man's overall situation, he would not be able to cope in Kabul because he suffers from severe psychological problems which impede his abilities.

The court said the man cannot be forced to return and said Finland must grant him asylum.

Threatened, left country

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the Taliban had threatened the man after he enrolled in a military school. Members of the Taliban threatened the young man, saying he must cease his cooperation with the Afghan state and join the fundamentalist group. Not long after being threatened the man fled the country, according to HS.

The paper also reports that after his asylum application was rejected in Finland, he asked his sister in Afghanistan to send paperwork to help his case.

The Taliban then kidnapped his sister and demanded some 36,000 euros in ransom money from their family, which they ended up paying.

During her captivity his sister was raped and tortured, resulting in her honour being besmirched, and because of this, she no longer wants to be in contact with her brother, according to HS.

Migri senior adviser Juuso Hyvärinen said there were many factors that led to the court's ruling.

"The man has no work experience, no resources and suffers from mental illness. The Supreme Administrative Court also noted that Hazaras who are Shia are more vulnerable than the majority of [Kabul's] population. All of this together led to the court's decision," Hyvärinen said.

"The [court's] statement that able-bodied men can live in Kabul even if they do not have contacts in the city corresponds with our view [on the matter]," he continued.

Migri: Not likely to set precedent

The court's decision on granting the man asylum is being included in its yearbook, which is a summary of the year's most important decisions and the grounds for reaching those decisions.

But Hyvärinen said he doesn't expect this ruling will necessarily change Finland's position on Afghan asylum applications or its security assessment of Kabul.

He pointed out that the court's decision includes additional directives on conditions regarding the assessment of the abilities of asylum applicants to move - or flee - in their home countries.

The Finnish Refugee Council's Ida Schauman said she thinks the court's ruling was appropriate.

"This does not mean it's a situation where we should be extremely pleased. But it is a step in the right direction for Afghans, the situation in Afghanistan and for Afghans in Finland," she said, saying that the decision could become a precedent for future cases.

She noted that the Supreme Court rarely takes on appeal cases, at least in asylum cases.