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Justice Ministry tightens rules on asylum decision appeals

New legal reforms introduced by the Justice Ministry will impose stricter conditions on asylum decision appeals and will also shorten the window for appeal. Starting next month, the overall impact of the changes will be to effectively shut the door on challenges to asylum decisions.

Vuosaaren vastaanottokeskus Itä-Helsingissä.
New rules will make it more difficult for asylum seekers to challenge rejected asylum applications. Image: Sasha Silvala / Yle

Stricter rules on the process for appealing asylum decisions will come into force this autumn. Finland’s Justice Ministry has tightened the requirements for getting approval to appeal asylum decisions and it has also cut short the time required for filing appeals. The net effect of the changes will be to reduce asylum seekers’ access to legal channels to appeal negative decisions.

The new rules mean that in future appeals in cases relating to international protection must be processed as urgent by a small legal tribunal. The ministry aims to reduce the pressure on tribunals caused by an increasing number of asylum seeker applications.

Starting this autumn, rejected asylum applicants will have 21 days to appeal immigration authorities’ decisions to the Administrative Court. After Administrative Courts hand down their decisions, asylum seekers will have just 14 days after the rulings to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court. The current window for appeals to both courts is 30 days.

Higher threshold for right to higher court appeals

In addition to narrowing the window for appeal, the ministry has also raised the threshold for granting leave to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court. Starting in September, getting the right to appeal will require a Supreme Administrative Court hearing to ensure that the law can be applied in other similar cases or that it will help harmonise court practices. Other substantial grounds could also make it easier to receive permission to appeal in the higher court.

The legislative changes will make it easier for Finland to implement deportation decisions, even in cases where applications withdraw their appeals to file a new application for asylum.

Public legal aid attorneys will be primarily responsible for providing asylum seekers with legal assistance. Additionally, asylum seekers will no longer be allowed to automatically have their legal aid attorneys present at hearings to determine the case for receiving protection. 

The legal reform will also affect pay for legal aid attorneys, who will in future be paid on the basis of each case they handle, rather than on an hourly basis as is the current practice.

President Sauli Niinistö is expected to confirm the legal reforms on Friday.

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