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Collectivized Discretion: Seeking Explanations for Decreased Asylum Recognition Rates in Finland After Europe's 2015 “Refugee Crisis”

Julkaisun tekijät: Vanto Johanna, Saarikkomäki Elsa, Alvesalo-Kuusi Anne, Lepinkäinen Nea, Pirjatanniemi Elina, Lavapuro Juha

Kustantaja: Sage Publications, Inc.

Julkaisuvuosi: 2021

Journal: International Migration Review

eISSN: 1747-7379



Rinnakkaistallenteen osoite:


In 2015, during the so-called “refugee crisis” in Europe, Finland was among the European countries receiving exceptionally large numbers of asylum applications. As the volume of asylum applications surged, however, the percentage of positive asylum decisions in Finland declined substantially. In this article, we explore reasons for this dramatic drop in recognitions rates and examine Finnish immigration control authorities’ use of discretion in asylum credibility assessment. Our approach is unique in its application of mixed methods to examine asylum decisions in pre- and post-crisis situations. We found that asylum caseworkers’ inconsistent assessment of similar facts and lack of faith in the veracity of applicants’ claims were essential to the mass denial of young Iraqi asylum applicants in Finland. This finding is important because it illustrates how asylum officers are able to “shift the border,” or generate a shift in asylum decision-making on a grand scale, without meaningful changes in law. Asylum officers, we show, are able to bring about such a shift via what we call collectivized discretion, or large-scale use of discretion, in asylum status determinations to control migration. Prior research on discretion in asylum decision-making highlights the individual decision-maker. This article expands discretion research by offering new insights on large-scale, collective discretionary shifts in the application of asylum law. We conclude that it is crucial that asylum status determinations be anchored in the individual assessment of each applicant's case, as collectivized discretion can lead to arbitrary results in the application of asylum law, potentially forcing those in need of refugee protection to face deportation.

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Last updated on 2022-07-04 at 16:21