Finland - Supreme Administrative Court, 12 Dec 2008, KHO:2008:88

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
12-12-2008
Citation:
KHO:2008:88
Court Name:
Supreme Administrative Court
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Headnote: 

The applicant’s refugee status was revoked due to a change in circumstances in the applicant’s country of origin as per section 107 subsection 5 of the Aliens’ Act, where the applicant’s individual need of protection was assessed in light of the notable and established social change in Sudan.

Facts: 

The Finnish Immigration Service revoked the applicant’s refugee status due to a change in circumstances in his country of origin. In addition, he was served with an expulsion order and was refused entry after he had committed a crime in Finland.

The revocation of the applicant’s refugee status and his expulsion were considered in light of the crimes the applicant had committed. Among others, the applicant was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment for aggravated rape.

In its arguments, the Immigration Service stated that the applicant, who had come to Finland as a quota refugee, was no longer a refugee as the circumstances which made him a refugee had ceased to exist.  The Immigration Service’s decision makes it apparent that the change of circumstances refers to changes in societal conditions in Sudan and in particular in Southern Sudan.

The Administrative Court rejected the applicant’s appeal. The Supreme Administrative Court granted leave to appeal and examined the case.

The applicant was removed to his country of origin while the appeal was still ongoing before the Supreme Administrative Court.

Decision & Reasoning: 

According to the UNHCR Handbook, the grounds for determining and revoking refugee status in circumstances referred to in Art 1(C)5 of the Refugee Convention refer to fundamental changes in a country that remove the basis of a fear of persecution. A change in facts, which may be temporary, in a refugee’s individual fear and which do not cause a significant change in circumstances, is not sufficient to evoke this clause.

The applicant stated that his political activity and membership of the Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Movement (SPL) organisation had come to the attention of  the Sudanese authorities. This led to three periods of imprisonment for a total of 18 months and involved brutal torture. UNHCR had used this argument, among others, to justify the granting of refugee status. The applicant’s religious activity had also contributed to his risk of being persecuted. UNHCR held that the applicant’s fear of persecution was well founded, and that his return to Sudan could not be seen as possible in the near future.

It was regarded that the societal conditions in Sudan, and in particular in South Sudan from where the applicant originates, had changed for the better in a significant and stable way since the applicant arrived in Finland. As a result, this had a bearing on the applicant’s refugee status and could be seen to remove the fear of persecution on the grounds of his membership of the SPL and his religious activity. If such a change in circumstances set out in §107 section 5 of the Aliens Act has taken place, further appraisal must be carried out to ascertain if the person would be able to seek protection from his country of nationality.

The Supreme Administrative Court held that earlier decisions had been based on up-to-date information on the societal changes that had taken place in the southern portions of Sudan.  Additionally, in light of the documents from the applicant’s initial quota selection interview and the personal interview conducted on the revocation of his refugee status and deportation, it was possible to come to the conclusion that there are no personal grounds which would render the revocation of his refugee status or deportation impossible due to either a fear of persecution or trauma due to previous experiences. Nor are there grounds which would allow him to refuse to avail himself of the protection of his country of nationality.

Additionally, the applicant could be deported to his country of origin and be issued with an entry ban until further notice.

Outcome: 

The appeal was rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court and the outcome of the Administrative Court’s ruling was not altered.

Observations/Comments: 
Case available on the website of the Supreme Administrative Court - http://www.kho.fi/paatokset/45299.htm