Finland – Supreme Court decides on minor returns and the duty of authorities to conduct safety assessment

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

On 23 October, the Finish Supreme Court ruled on the possibility to return an unaccompanied minor to Iraq, where his family resided.

The Finnish Immigration Service had rejected the minor’s application for international protection and residence permit deciding whether the child would be better placed in a familiar environment in Baghdad, Iraq. The authorities refrained from taking any practical steps to trace the applicant’s parents, as the minor had reported being in contact with them. The Administrative Court also dismissed the applicant’s appeal, noting that the family did not seem to have been directly targeted in the attacks included in the applicant’s story. Moreover, the minor’s extensive family in Iraq makes it reasonable for the child to be returned there.

On appeal, the Supreme Court did not find the appellant’s claims that the family had been the target of threats in their hometown as credible, finding no further reason to annul the contested decisions on the need for international protection. It did, however, disagree with the lower court’s reasoning on the possibility to return the minor back to their family. According to the Court, immigration authorities could not have been able to base their view on the appropriateness of return conditions solely on the minor’s affirmation that they were in contact with their parents. It should have, instead, ensured the minor’s safe return by taking practical steps to trace the parents.

According to the Supreme Court’s previous case law, the need for proper return procedures requires cooperation between the Finnish authorities and the parents of the child. Such cooperation would also ensure correct assessment of the reception conditions in the child’s home country and a better evaluation of the child’s best interest, in the context of that specific family environment. The need for such a practical approach on behalf of the Finnish authorities was even greater as the child reported having lost contact with the family, due to their displacement.

As it was not possible to ascertain the safety of the minor’s return and the appropriateness of the reception conditions, the Court ruled that the decision must be annulled and the case must be remitted to the Finnish Immigration Services for reconsideration.

Based on an unofficial translation by the ELENA Weekly Legal Update.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.



Best interest of the child
Unaccompanied minor