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Refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq will not automatically be granted a residence permit in the future. In the past few months, the security situation has gradually improved in all three countries. According to the Finnish Immigration Service MIGRI, it is currently possible for asylum seekers to return to all areas of the aforementioned countries without the ongoing armed conflicts as such presenting a danger to them only because they are staying in the country.
The provision of the Aliens Act allowing asylum seekers to be granted a residence permit on the basis of humanitarian protection was repealed yesterday.
According to Jaana Vuorio, the service director general at the Finnish Immigration Service, all pending applications, about 20,000, will be affected by the new guidelines and in the future there will be “more denied applications.”
Residence permits used to be granted on the basis of humanitarian protection when the applicant did not meet the requirements for asylum or subsidiary protection but could not return to his or her home country because of a bad security situation or an environmental catastrophe. A bad security situation might have been due to an armed conflict or a poor human rights situation.
In practice, humanitarian protection was granted, for example, to applicants coming from central and southern Somalia if it was considered that they could not return to the area because of the risk of having to face severe conditions. Some areas in Iraq and Afghanistan have also been considered to have particularly bad conditions.
The legislative amendment will not affect the period of validity of the residence permits which have already been granted on the basis of humanitarian protection, but extended permits will no longer be issued on the said ground. When a residence permit based on humanitarian protection expires, the permit holder must either leave the country or apply for a new permit on some other ground. In Finland, residence permits may be issued, for example, for working, studying and pursuing a trade, or on the basis of family ties to the country.
The Finnish Immigration Service has granted a few hundred residence permits on the basis of humanitarian protection annually, most of them to applicants from Iraq and Somalia.
It will also be more difficult to be granted subsidiary protection in Finland because of the improved security situation in the main countries of origin of asylum seekers arriving in Finland.
Residence permits based on humanitarian protection were a national permit category in Finland before the Aliens Act was amended. In future, residence permits on the basis of international protection will include residence permits issued under the asylum procedure or on the basis of subsidiary protection.
The Finnish Immigration Service follows the security situation in the main countries of origin of asylum seekers on a regular basis. Nevertheless, when considering the issue of residence permits, the individual grounds for granting asylum or subsidiary protection are always assessed for each applicant.
So far, the Finns party MP Ville Tavio from the southwest city of Turku, is the only politician to comment the tighter regulations, and according to him the direction of MIGRI is just about right.
“The agenda of the Finns party is starting to reach the Finnish Immigration Service, ” he said in a bulletin. “The current asylum system has failed and the right to seek refuge has become a central path for an improved standard of living.”
According to Tavio, fake stories while seeking asylum have become “a real problem.” “The asylum seekers who seek refuge under false pretences are aiming to take advantage of the Finnish will to help. This should not be allowed to continue,” he said.