Finland: Supreme Administrative Court rules on the obligation to provide special procedural guarantees to vulnerable applicants

Monday, September 7, 2020

On 7 September 2020, the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland ruled that an officer of the Finish Immigration Service (FIS) is obliged, under section 96(a) of the Aliens Act, to consider the individual status and circumstances of an asylum applicant by identifying an applicant in need of special procedural guarantees and providing them with the necessary support to enable them to exercise their rights and fulfil their obligations in the asylum procedure.

The case concerns the rejection of an application for international protection lodged by a Somali national who had submitted that she had suffered repeated sexual violence perpetrated by Al-Shabaab. The female applicant’s interview for international protection was conducted in the presence of a male interviewer and interpreter. The FIS rejected the application for international protection and a residence permit and ordered her return to Somalia. The Administrative Court denied the applicant an oral hearing and concluded that the appeal against the FIS decision was unfounded.

The Supreme Court was asked to consider whether the FIS decision was unlawful because the applicant was not offered the opportunity to have an interviewer and interpreter of the same sex present at her interview, especially given the reliance on sexual violence as a basis for her application for international protection.

In its assessment, the Court stated that the FIS is obliged to take into account the individual status and circumstances of an asylum applicant so that support can be provided where an applicant needs special procedural guarantees. The Court emphasised that the decisive factor in assessing the need for assistance is whether, without the assistance, the applicant would be able to exercise her rights and fulfil her obligations in the international protection procedure. The Court determined that given the weak position of women in Somalia and the reliance on the alleged recurrent sexual violence as the basis for her claim, the applicant must be regarded as vulnerable. Given this vulnerability, the applicant could not be expected to be able to share her experience in the presence of a male interviewer and male interpreter.

The Court overturned the decisions of the FIS and the Administrative Court and referred the case back to FIS for a new asylum interview.

Based on an unofficial translation by the EWLU team. Photo: Fredrik Rubensson, August 16, 2013, Flickr (CC)

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly 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.                               

Gender Based Persecution
Procedural guarantees
Vulnerable person