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Courts overturned hundreds of asylum decisions in 2018

Last year, courts overturned some 330 decisions on asylum applications rejected by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).

Asylum seekers staged a protest in front of Migri in 2017. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) said the ten-fold growth in asylum seekers in the 2015 to 2016 period contributed to mistakes being made, although the agency hired hundreds of new staffers to deal with a glut of asylum applications.In 2018, Finland’s administrative courts sent 330 asylum decisions of the 6,800 they reviewed back to Migri, bringing the agency's error rate up to 4.9 percent from 0.2 percent in 2015. The Interior Ministry has set a 5 percent upper limit on incorrect asylum decisions, meaning the agency has no room left for procedural errors.

In the overturned cases, the courts ruled that Migri had not adequately assessed the applicants’ need for asylum or the agency had misinterpreted the law.

”The year 2016 was definitely one when mistakes happened,” Migri's asylum unit director, Esko Repo,told Yle.

To avoid mistakes, Repo said processors now have more time to conduct interviews with applicants.

Most appeal negative outcome

Many of those receiving a negative asylum decision appeal their case in the courts. Last week, Ilkka Pere, a former administrative court judge, told tabloid Iltalehti that he feared Migri is granting refugee status to applicants not meeting the requirements for international protection.

But Repo of Migri pushed back against this claim, saying that if his agency demanded indisputable evidence of persecution, hardly anyone would be granted asylum.

”Their story has to be consistent, believable and in line with information we have on the country in question. If we don’t have evidence proving their story wrong, their account will do. In what other way could we possibly evaluate an applicant’s merit, if not based on what they say?" asked Repo.