By Johanna Väänänen
A man who was denied asylum by Finland’s immigration service has been shot dead just weeks after his return to Iraq, according to Finnish public broadcaster YLE.
Ali had said he sought refuge in Finland for being an “incorruptible” researcher on human rights and corruption. In a YLE documentary aired at the start of 2017, Ali said that this made him a danger to many implicated in corruption.
The Iraqi police report and death certificate obtained by YLE said Ali was shot three times by unidentified armed men in a pickup truck on December 17, 2017. His body was found by his father at a Baghdad hospital.
Ali's daughter, Noor, is adamant that her father was killed by the same people who had made him seek refuge in Finland in 2015.
Noor said her father had been back in Iraq for only a short period, and he had been too busy to talk over the phone. The last words to his daughter were left over a message on Facebook, where he wrote, "Daddy’s dearest, I hope you are well, do not worry, I have arrived safely, take care of yourself and the girls, you're strong and you can manage.”
Now, Noor fears what may await her and her children — who were born in Finland — after they, too, were denied asylum status. Last year Finland made decisions in 9,565 asylum applications by Iraqis, according to UNHCR. Of these, almost half were denied asylum.
The Finnish immigration service, Migri, described Ali’s case as tragic and that it had been unaware of his death until it was reported in the media.
However, it defended itself in a statement, saying it did not have the jurisdiction to monitor incidents outside Finland's borders, nor were Finnish authorities entitled to keep track of foreign nationals outside the country.
Migri said they make the decisions to return asylum seekers based on the information they have concerning threats at that moment. The immigration service also stated that, the security situation in Iraq may vary very quickly but that the situation was monitored continuously. However, asylum need not be granted to those with the opportunity of “internal flight”, meaning the ability to flee to another city of their country deemed safe by authorities.
Migri’s response came under heavy criticism from some quarters. Greens MP Ville Niinistö said it was “like they had washed their hands clean of the whole situation.” He told Euronews he would like to see a large-scale investigation into all of Migri’s decisions, adding that the service "should be held responsible if their individual decisions are proven to be against the Finnish law."
Finland in particular, according to Ville, has tightened its refugee policy to unnecessary levels and that it’s especially difficult for asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Finland’s Migri keeps on using the internal flight as a reason for returns, which is unacceptable”, said Ville.
Ville added that Finland’s approach on returning children is very strict and this approach violates the rights of children.
Caroline Bach, a spokesperson for UNHCR in Finland, told Euronews the UNHCR had concerns over how the protection rate of Iraqi asylum seekers in Finland has decreased significantly. The agency said it does not consider it appropriate for states to deny persons from Iraq international protection on the basis of applicability of an internal flight or relocation alternative.
“There are legal thresholds, reasonableness criteria, that always need to be taken into consideration. Internal flight alternative is relevant only if the proposed area of relocation is practically, safely and legally accessible, and if the individual concerned would not be exposed to a further risk of persecution or serious harm in the area of relocation,” said Bach.