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Asylum appeals returned at record rates in 2017

In 2017 administrative courts in Finland altered a record number of verdicts in asylum decisions by the Finnish Immigration Service Migri.

Helsingin hallinto-oikeuden kyltti.
The Helsinki Administrative Court handled more than 4,000 asylum appeals in 2017. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

More asylum application appeals than ever were altered last year, with the administrative court system either changing or sending back for reconsideration some 31 percent of the roughly 10,000 appeals dealt with in 2017.

Court officials estimate that in 2017, 7,000 appeals were handled by the administrative courts, whilst 3,200 cases were dealt with by the Supreme Administrative Court.

Following a record high number of appeals of asylum verdicts in 2015, which led to a backlog of cases in the Helsinki administrative courts, the process of handling appeals was distributed to the administrative courts of Eastern Finland, Northern Finland and Turku.

The other courts mostly approved a similar proportion of appeals. Turku however, had a higher rate of appeals -- 42 percent -- that were either changed or sent back to Migri for a fresh look.

Conversion to Christianity a growing basis for appeal

In 2017, Helsinki administrative courts changed or returned a record of 29 percent of verdicts, compared to 24 percent the previous year and 18 percent in 2015.

All of the country’s administrative court combined either changed or returned 31 percent of cases to Migri for a new verdict. Meanwhile nearly 5,000 appeals were left without a decision.

A large number of the cases sent back to Migri cited the applicant’s conversion to Christianity as justification for reconsideration. An applicant who has converted to Christianity may receive asylum if they fear religious persecution upon returning to their home country.

Rushed work,heavy pressure force processing errors

Of the total number of cases returned, 4 percent were sent back to immigration officials due to legal and procedural errors, up from 3.5 percent one year earlier. Migri says it aims to keep this statistic below the 5-percent mark. Mistakes are said to be due to a rushed system as well as heavy pressure to reject applications.

According to Migri, last year saw 5,000 individuals apply for asylum, with a little over 2,000 of them first-timers. This is around half the number of applicants compared to 2016 when 4,000 were first-time appliers, however 2015 held the record with 32,500 applicants.

After receiving a verdict, the applicant then has the right to appeal the decision. Often if an applicant receives a negative verdict, they may file numerous appeals. Migri is now processing a little over 2,000 of such cases. By the end of 2017, the asylum reception system housed 13,200 individuals, 10,700 of whom had already been denied asylum.

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