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Imperilled Iraqi man’s negative asylum decision gathers criticism

A recent decision from the Finnish Immigration Service has generated a heated debate on social media this week, with several influential commentators weighing in. An Iraqi man was recently denied asylum due to new Finnish laws that judge Iraq to be safe, even though the immigration authorities admitted in their decision to believing his life was in danger in his homeland.

Osa päätöksestä.
An excerpt from the decision in question.

People on social media have responded with disbelief and criticism to news that an Iraqi man was denied asylum in Finland, despite demonstrating that he was clearly imperilled in his home country.

According to the decision, first made public when it was posted on social media Wednesday, the man was able to successfully prove to the Finnish Immigration Service that his home in Mosul had been bombed, the army had tortured him and that ISIS was persecuting him.

The Service justified its negative decision by saying that he still had the option of internal migration, and that he could possibly live in safety in Baghdad. Although it is unlikely that he could receive official protection, the authority reasons that as a Sunni, he would perhaps find a safe house in the Sunni-dominated parts of the capital city.

Opposition comes down hard on stricter policy

Several leaders of Finnish political parties that are now in the opposition protested both the decision and recent changes to the Aliens Act: the Swedish People’s Party’s new leader Anna-Maja Henriksson, Greens head Ville Niinistö and fresh Left Alliance chair Li Andersson.

Andersson commented that the concept of internal flight is a controversial one in terms of international asylum law. She also slammed the policy changes implemented by the Finnish Immigration Services in May that declare Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq safe for repatriation.

“The Finnish Immigration Service must update its safety outlook and country-specific policies as soon as it can, so they reflect the actual situation in the countries in question,” she said in an official press release.

Professor of Public International Law Martin Scheinin also criticized the decision, saying that he has reason to believe that Finland’s tougher asylum policy may be in conflict with the country’s constitution.

Administrative Court will decide

The rate of negative asylum decisions has picked up dramatically since the stricter policy came into force. Current figures show that every third asylum application is now being rejected. Last year the percentage of negative decision was just over 15.

The Finnish Immigration Service’s Asylum Unit Director Esko Repo pointed out on Thursday in an Aamulehti interview that the decision can be appealed, after which the country’s Administrative Court will weigh the Immigration Service’s guidelines, the situation in Baghdad and the feasibility of internal flight in Iraq.

There are eight regional administrative courts in Finland, and the number of appeals to the Administrative Court in Helsinki has grown significantly in the last year, leading to processing times of more than six months.

For some, the appeal process may take even longer; as a negative decision by the Administrative Court can be appealed further to the Supreme Administrative Court, if the higher court sees suitable grounds to hear the case.

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