Finland: Supreme Administrative Court overturns ruling on asylum application on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

On 20 August 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland ordered the re-assessment of an applicant’s asylum claim on the grounds of their persecution due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In an appeal from July 2018, the Administrative Court of Northern Finland found the applicant described their sexual orientation, including their experience in a previous relationship, in a general and superficial manner and found their account to not be credible. The Administrative Court upheld the decision of the Immigration Service rejecting the application for international protection and ordered the applicant’s return to Iraq.

In the Supreme Administrative Court, the Court examined the situation in Iraq for individuals who identify as LGBTI+ referencing UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines from 2012, the UNHCR Position on Returns to Iraq from 2016, as well as the latest EASO Country Guidance on Iraq.

The Court held that definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity are unique to each individual and cannot be assessed using generalised concepts. It recognised that sexual orientation as an identity is not directly related to a person's sexual behaviour and that the assessment of international protection concerns should not be based on specific acts of the applicant.

The Court held that the applicant had consistently and sufficiently described their relationship with a man in Iraq and recognised that the applicant self-identified as gay and internally felt that they were a woman. The application was further corroborated by the medical reports submitted by the applicant. The Court held that the applicant had legitimate reasons to fear persecution in their home country. It annulled the previous rulings and referred the matter back to the Immigration Service for re-assessment.

Based on an unofficial translation by the EWLU team.

Photo: (CC) National Assembly for Wales, March 2005 / Flickr

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is pusexblished but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.


Sexual orientation