The Finnish Immigration Service has issued new guidelines for decision-making regarding asylum applications from Afghans. The new guidelines concern the security situation in Kabul province.

On 9 July 2021, the Finnish Immigration Service suspended issuing negative decisions to Afghan citizens that would entail removal from the country.

The suspension was due to significant changes in the security situation in Afghanistan.

As from 9 July 2021, the Finnish Immigration Service has granted international protection to 433 Afghan nationals. Some asylum seekers have had to wait for a decision, however, as all of the necessary information has not been available. These applications can now be processed.

Decisions always based on up-to-date country information

The Finnish Immigration Service is working closely with the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) to accurately assess the security situation in Afghanistan. As is the case for other countries, Finland continues to face challenges in collecting the necessary information on Afghanistan. The Finnish Immigration Service's new instructions for decision-making take into account EUAA guidelines on the situation in Afghanistan.

The decision-making guidelines issued by the Finnish Immigration Service are drawn up for each region individually and supplemented as the necessary information becomes available on the various regions.

Next, guidelines will be made available on the Wardak and Ghazni provinces.

"The Finnish Immigration Service always uses up-to-date country information when making decisions. We are constantly monitoring the security situation in Kabul and the other provinces, and are prepared to adapt our decision-making practices as necessary based on new country information," said Head of Legal Services Jaakko Purontie.

Violence continues in Kabul

The situation in Afghanistan continues to be unstable. According to the United Nations, Kabul is among the regions of the country in which the conflict remains at its most intense. Furthermore, the humanitarian situation is serious. However, violence has decreased in Kabul since the Taliban came to power.

While the conflict between the previous Afghan administration, the United States-led coalition and the Taliban has ended, hostilities have continued between the Taliban and terrorist organisation ISIS as well as between the Taliban and local resistance movements. The Finnish Immigration Service considers that even as the number of security incidents and civilian casualties has clearly declined in the province, the threat of indiscriminate violence remains at the level observed before the Taliban seized power. The agency's assessment has also attached importance to the serious humanitarian situation in Afghanistan as well as to the limited availability of information.

The level of indiscriminate violence is not currently such that those fleeing Kabul could be granted subsidiary protection status automatically. Instead, each asylum seeker's circumstances are assessed individually.

"During the asylum examination process, we consider the individual circumstances of each applicant and the impact of the security situation in Kabul on the need for protection," said Purontie.

The alternative of internal protection is not currently being applied to asylum seekers from Afghanistan. The internal protection alternative refers to an assessment of whether an asylum seeker, having fled one region of his or her home country, could settle in another.

Many applicants in vulnerable position

The circumstances of all Afghan asylum seekers are first examined to ascertain whether asylum can be granted on the basis of individual persecution. If asylum is not granted, the Finnish Immigration Service assesses the possibility of granting the applicant subsidiary protection.

Eligibility for subsidiary protection is based on the existence of an individual threat or the situation in the applicant's home region. Each applicant's circumstances are always considered individually. Decisions take into account the most recent country information available as well as the personal situation of the applicant.

"Many categories of applicants from Afghanistan are considered to be in need of international protection. These include children and women without a safety net, sexual minorities, reporters, and employees of human rights organisations. Opponents of the Taliban, those who worked with international forces or the previous Afghan administration, and those who have renounced Islam are also regarded as needing international protection," said Purontie.

If an asylum seeker is ineligible for international protection, the Finnish Immigration Service examines whether to issue a residence permit on a discretionary basis on humanitarian grounds. Decisions are based on an overall assessment that takes into account the humanitarian situation in the applicant's home country, the state of his or her health, and other individual circumstances. In light of the most recent country information available on the situation in Afghanistan, many of the applicants will be granted a residence permit.

Number of Afghan asylum seekers currently low

Between January and April 2022, 91 Afghan citizens applied for asylum in Finland. Of these, 71 were first applications and 20 subsequent applications. A total of 441 Afghan citizens are currently waiting for a decision on their application for asylum.

Fact sheet: Country of origin information is an important part of decision-making in asylum matters

  • An asylum seeker's need for international protection is assessed individually when the asylum decision is made. Asylum decisions take into account the up-to-date country information that is relevant to the situation of each individual asylum seeker.
  • The situation of an asylum seeker is not assessed solely on the basis of country information. Each applicant's individual circumstances are examined in order to ascertain if returning to the home country in question would put him or her at risk of suffering persecution or serious harm.
  • The level of violence caused by an armed conflict is assessed regionally, on a scale from low to extremely high. When the level of violence in a certain area is estimated to be extreme, all those present there are considered in danger.
  • Factors that affect the assessment include the number of security incidents and civilians killed or injured, the way the violence is manifested, the number of internally displaced persons, the nature of the conflict and its geographical scope, and the everyday living conditions of the local population.

Source: Finnish Immigration Service