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The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's Report: Subsequent applications are a key factor in safeguarding basic rights and liberties in the asylum process

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has examined decisions made on subsequent applications in the asylum process. A significant percentage of subsequent applications receive favourable decisions. The high percentage of favourable decisions shows that subsequent applications are necessary for the realisation of asylum seekers' legal protection. However, it is particularly important to focus on the quality of the first asylum procedure, so that the applicant's grounds for asylum are identified and examined at the earliest stage possible.

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman examined the types of situations in which positive decisions had been made on subsequent applications between March and August 2023 and assessed the significance of subsequent applications in the Finnish asylum system. For the report, the Ombudsman reviewed decisions made on subsequent applications for international protection.

In particular, the report examined favourable decisions in which the applicant had invoked the same grounds for asylum in their previous asylum application, as well as decisions in which the applicant's vulnerable position or grounds for asylum had not come to light in earlier asylum procedures. Means of better identifying the applicants' need for international protection as early as possible were examined by studying the cases included in the report.

In many cases, the need for international protection is not identified until the subsequent application stage.

"Around one third of positive decisions concern cases where the asylum seeker first received a negative decision and subsequently a positive decision on the same or partly the same grounds, or where a vulnerability that existed but was not previously identified emerged in connection with the subsequent application", says Specialist Elsa Korkman.

Based on the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's report, subsequent applications are thus an important tool for safeguarding the basic rights and liberties of the applicants, as well as for compliance with the principle of non-refoulement.

The Programme of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo's Government sets as the goal the prevention of unfounded subsequent applications and the tightening of the conditions for submitting subsequent applications. The Government Programme also specifies that the processing of asylum applications will be made more efficient.

”Based on our report, tightening the conditions for accepting subsequent applications even further is extremely concerning. It would lead to a risk that many people in need of international protection will remain unidentified if their subsequent applications are not examined", says Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kristina Stenman.

The idea of abusing the asylum procedure by making subsequent applications and an assumption that subsequent applications are unfounded sometimes crop up in the public debate on subsequent applications. However, the Finnish Immigration Service's statistics show that many favourable decisions are made on subsequent applications. In 41% of the decisions made in the period covered by the report, the Finnish Immigration Service granted either asylum, subsidiary protection or another type of residence permit. The assumption that subsequent applications are particularly unfounded is therefore not justified.

Investing in the quality of the asylum procedure from the start can reduce subsequent applications

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's report reveals that the asylum procedure can and should be further developed to ensure that the need for international protection and the potential vulnerable position of a person is identified already in connection with the first asylum application. This is in line with the asylum seeker's basic rights and liberties and saves public resources. Based on the report, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has drawn up recommendations on ways of safeguarding the basic rights and liberties of asylum seekers and ensuring the quality of the asylum procedure.

”The asylum procedure must not be streamlined in ways that degrade its quality. The procedure must be developed to ensure that the factors relevant for granting a residence permit are identified, examined and accepted as fact at the earliest possible stage of the procedure. This would also reduce the need for complaints and subsequent applications”, says Senior Specialist Liisa Välimäki.

Meanwhile, it must be ensured that the asylum procedure is not developed into a direction that would increase the need for subsequent applications. Since 2015, the asylum procedure and the rights of foreign nationals have been subject to a number of changes that were justified by the need to make the asylum procedure more efficient, for example. In light of research, however, the need for subsequent applications has been increased by the changes that sought to improve efficiency.

Read the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's report on the significance of subsequent applications in the asylum process.

One of the duties of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is the promotion of the status and rights of foreign nationals. In particular, the Ombudsman aims to promote the rights of the most vulnerable foreign nationals and to identify issues in the law and its application.