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Evaluating what is in the child’s interests in cases involving foreign nationals

Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin concluded that the authorities had failed to evaluate what was in the child’s interests in the case of a family with children that had applied for asylum. The decision refers to both the reception centre and the municipal social welfare services in question. Deputy Ombudsman Sakslin investigated the matter on the basis of a complaint by the children of the family. 
 
The reception centre services for the family were terminated following a negative decision on asylum issued by the Supreme Court with regard to a residence permit and asylum. The fami-ly did not leave the country voluntarily, due to which it was transferred to become a client of the municipal social welfare services. No evaluation was made of what would be in the chil-dren’s interests or of their viewpoint when terminating reception centre services and beginning the provision of social welfare services. The situation was particularly reprehensible from the children’s point of view because the asylum process had taken more than seven years. 
 
Deputy Ombudsman Sakslin stated that the complainants and their siblings had been left in an unreasonably difficult situation due to choices and decisions made by adults. The choices made by the parents and the actions taken by the Finnish authorities had played a role in this.
 
- In the resulting situation, the authorities had an even greater obligation to evaluate, individually and on a broader basis, what would have been in the in-terests of all children in the family. Clarifying the viewpoint of the child is an in-tegral part of evaluating what is in the child’s interests. Compared to an adult, a child has fewer possibilities of safeguarding its own interests. Authorities should therefore pay special attention to ensuring that the interests of children are safeguarded. There are stronger grounds for this than normal in cases where a child is in a particularly vulnerable situation, such as when he or she is an asylum seeker, Sakslin emphasises. 
 
The decision takes no stance on the possible results of evaluations of the children’s interests. 
 
Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin’s decision EOAK/6946/2017 is available in full in Finnish on the Ombudsman’s website at www.oikeusasiamies.fi/en