European Court of Human Rights declares inadmissible allegation of discrimination against applicant for work-based residence permit

On 17 March 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared inadmissible an application concerning alleged discrimination against an applicant for a work-based residence permit.

The applicant had entered Finland in 2015 as an asylum seeker. The Finnish Immigration Service had rejected his application for a work-based residence permit in 2018 because he had not been able to prove his identity. As the applicant had been refused a residence permit, he had not received an alien's passport, either. The applicant had appealed against the decision to an administrative court, which had rejected the appeal. The Supreme Administrative Court had refused the applicant leave to appeal. According to the applicant, he had been compelled to give up his permanent job.

The applicant considered that Finland had violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of discrimination), read in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 to the Convention (general prohibition of discrimination). According to the applicant, he had been discriminated against because Somali nationals could not receive work-based residence permits as Finland did not, as a rule, accept Somali passports, and because Somali nationals could not receive alien's passports, either, as they were not granted work-based residence permits.

The European Court of Human Rights noted that, according to Finnish law, all persons seeking to obtain a work-based residence permit need to prove their identity. According to the Court, the European Convention on Human Rights does not require that exceptions be possible in this context, since the Convention does not guarantee a right to employment. The ECtHR also held that the requirement to prove one's identity is neutral in the sense that it treats everybody in the same manner irrespective of their country of origin.

As to the alleged indirect discrimination and the allegation that Finland, in principle, does not recognise Somali passports as identity documents, the ECtHR pointed out that the applicant had not at any stage relied on a Somali passport when applying for a residence permit. According to the Court, the crux of the matter lay in the applicant's failure to prove his identity. On this point, the Court accepted Finland's argument to the effect that the requirement of proof of identity as a condition for a work-based residence permit was reasonably justifiable in terms of the interests of public order and security. 

Read the Decision on the ECtHR website.(layout.types.url.description)

Inquiries:

Tuomas Kaivola, Legal Officer, Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions, tel. +358 29 535 0887.

The Foreign Ministry’s email addresses are in the format firstname.lastname@formin.fi.