A woman carrying a child walks along a roadside in Zhari district of Kandahar province on February 15, 2023. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

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Finnish Immigration Service has announced that all Afghan women and girls will be granted refugee status due to the worsening position of women's rights and freedoms since the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan. The Finnish Immigration Service has updated its guidelines on the processing of applications submitted by Afghans to reflect this change. The decision-making practice aligns with the report published by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) on January 25, 2023.

According to the Director of Asylum Unit Antti Lehtinen, gender alone will now be sufficient grounds for asylum, whereas previously it was only one of the many aspects considered in the decision-making process. The decision is a proactive measure taken by the Finnish Immigration Service in response to the deteriorating situation for women in Afghanistan, and not a reactive measure following the EUAA report.

Additionally, the Finnish Immigration Service has updated its guidelines on the processing of applications submitted by Afghans from a Hazara background. The guidelines reflect the EUAA's report that the position of Hazaras has deteriorated in Afghanistan. While it is not possible to conclude that all Hazaras living in Afghanistan require international protection, the asylum seeker's individual circumstances, including gender and living in an area where the ISIS makes attacks, will be taken into account.

The Finnish Immigration Service has not made any decisions leading to the removal of Afghans from the country since July 2021. In 2022, 511 out of 612 asylum decisions made for Afghans were positive, with 394 granted asylum, 7 receiving subsidiary protection, and 110 issued a residence permit on other grounds, such as compassionate grounds.

While the decision to grant refugee status to Afghan women and girls in Finland is a positive step towards providing protection, it could encourage illegal migration and the exploitation of vulnerable women and girls. Families may send their female members on dangerous journeys to seek asylum in Finland, which could result in significant risks and challenges.

Often the authorities and decision makers in Finland do not pay attention to the message their decisions send to millions of desperate people wanting to migrate. A previous decisions to make family reunion of underage asylum seekers easier, caused an uproar in families sending underage kids alone to a dangerous journey. Most of these kids do not make it to western countries or their target countries, but end up being abused somewhere in the transit countries.

Immigration Services often are struggling with skilled staff and do not have the necessary resources and expertise to investigate and prevent abuse of the system, or grant residence permits to skilled workers who are badly needed. Recently the case of a Mongolian nurse who went through a nightmare while trying to renew her work and residence permit was widely reported in the media.

Discouraging irregular migration and addressing the root causes of displacement and migration is also not functioning. Finland should work closely with other countries and international organisations to address the humanitarian needs of displaced persons and promote stability and development in conflict-affected areas. This approach will ensure that the country can provide effective protection to those who genuinely need it, while preventing the misuse of the system and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.

HT

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