No person may be held in detention without legislative prerequisites, even in emergency conditions
In emergency conditions, the importance of fundamental rights is emphasised for everyone. Organisations adapt their operations to crisis conditions, and many operations do not work as they did before. When there are many socially significant problems that need to be solved at once, the issues and rights of persons in vulnerable positions may be overlooked.
The crisis has resulted in changes in how asylum and residence permit applications are processed, which has impacted the implementation of rights. No asylum interviews are being conducted at this moment. Finnish embassies have suspended the reception and processing of residence permit applications. There have been changes in customer service and the processing of work permits.
Last week, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights appealed to the Member States to release foreigners held in detention for the duration of the crisis caused by the corona epidemic. In many Member States, returns are currently suspended, and returns within Europe falling under the Dublin Regulation are not being implemented either. The Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out that detaining a foreigner in order to secure their removal from the country can only be lawful if the return is actively going to be enforced.
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman receives notifications of all decisions concerning detentions. We are monitoring how the corona epidemic affects detention and release procedures. It is important to ensure that no one is held in detention without legislative prerequisites. A detained foreigner must also be released immediately when there are no prerequisites for continued detention. Therefore, authorities should constantly assess any changes in the situation regarding each detained person. It is the view of the Ombudsman that it is difficult to find the prerequisites for keeping asylum seekers detained, when the time of return is unknown or it has been moved very far ahead due to travel restrictions or uncertainty related to the corona epidemic.
Provisions on detention and other interim measures are laid down in the Aliens Act. A foreigner may be subject to the interim measures referred to in the Act if both the general and specific requirements are met. Detention involves a significant restriction of a person's fundamental rights and therefore always constitutes as a last resort. Even in exceptional circumstances, it must be remembered that according to the law, the rights of a foreigner may not be restricted more than it is necessary.