Finland grants asylum and residence permits to dozens of Chechens

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Finland has begun granting asylum and residence permits to Chechens based upon the threat of violations to their human rights in their home country.

The number of Russian asylum seekers in Finland increased several times over around the turn of the millennium. This can be partly explained by the Russian-Chechen war that started in 1999.

Finland's Directorate of Immigration (UVI) has granted asylum to 21 Chechens since 2004, and residence permits to 67 Chechens since 2001, on the basis of the need for international protection.

Even though the ethnic background of these refugees is not indicated by the statistics, Director of Regional Unit Esko Repo, from the Directorate of Immigration, reports that nearly all of them are certainly of Chechen origin.

Prior to this, Finland never granted asylum to citizens of Russia or any other neighboring country. Chechens have been granted asylum and residence permits by some of the other European Union States.

According to Finland's Directorate of Immigration, people in Chechnya continue to be victims of violations of their human rights. However, not all Chechen applicants have been immediately granted asylum or residency in Finland on the basis of need for protection.

Some of those rejected have appealed the decisions to an Administrative Court, which can either reject the appeal or annul the decision. In some cases, the appeal process has been successful, and the applicant has been granted a positive decision afterwards.

Hence UVI has started to give positive decisions to Chechen applicants more frequently.

"Both the Administrative Courts and the Directorate of Immigration are of the opinion that no Chechen asylum seekers are to be repatriated", Esko Repo reports.

"People returning to Chechnya may be subjected to inhuman treatment. Such treatment is a basis for asylum or a residence permit for persons who have applied for international protection. A situation like this involves a question of human rights", explains Repo.

Besides Chechnya being their home country, the applicants may have other reasons to apply for asylum in Finland. For example, they might have been supporting or hiding guerrillas.

Furthermore, some of the applicants have reported that they have participated in fights against Russian armed forces.

Asylum is not granted if the applicant has committed a serious political or other crime prior to arriving in Finland as a refugee. However, no such cases have yet been recorded during the asylum investigations.

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