European Migration Network

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UNHCR supports Finnish Migration Service in developing assessment of internal flight in asylum decisions

At the request of the Finnish Immigration Service, UNHCR has reviewed asylum decisions in which the immigration service has applied the internal flight alternative. Internal flight refers to an assessment of whether an asylum seeker who has fled their area of origin can find protection elsewhere in the home country.

Cooperation with the UNHCR is one way of developing asylum decisions. The assessment is a continuation of the review on asylum decisions and procedures, made in June at the request of the Ministry of the Interior, in which internal flight was one of the themes.

A total of 53 decisions from 2017 and 2018 were reviewed, 25 of which had been made for Iraqi and 28 for Afghan nationals. These only included decisions in which the Finnish Immigration Service had not granted international protection to an asylum seeker, because it was deemed that they could relocate elsewhere in the home country.

The Finnish Immigration Service has required internal flight from asylum seekers quite rarely. In total from January 2017 to June 2018, 159 rejections due to internal flight were made for Afghan and 65 for Iraqi nationals. During the same period, a total of 2,052 asylum decisions were made for Afghan and 5,704 for Iraqi nationals.

The possibility of internal flight is determined for all asylum seekers at risk of persecution or serious harm. However, this must be safe, possible and reasonable for the asylum seeker. These factors are emphasised by the UNHCR as well.

The UNHCR paid attention to, for instance, how asylum seekers themselves are heard on internal flight and how persecution perceived earlier influences an assessment of whether internal flight is reasonable. According to the UNHCR, in some cases where persecution perceived by an asylum seeker earlier had been accepted as a fact in a decision, the Finnish Immigration Service could have justified more precisely why the asylum seeker was no longer in danger for this reason.

The UNHCR also stated that, in assessments of internal flight, the security situation had been assessed extensively, but the status of human rights in the area had been given less focus.

Asylum decisions are always based on individual consideration. The personal circumstances of the asylum seeker are also taken into consideration in an assessment of internal flight. For instance in the case of families with children, the Finnish Immigration Service always makes an especially careful assessment of whether internal flight is reasonable, and in practice internal flight has rarely been required from families with children.

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