Assessing asylum claims: Religious conversion

Persecution based on religion constitutes grounds for asylum, but the assessment of religious conversion is also a debated issue, as true faith is extremely difficult to define. The matter has become more topical in Finland in recent years, as the number of asylum claims based on religious conversion have increased. In many countries, including Finland, civil society observers and religious communities and churches have heavily criticized asylum officers’ lack of knowledge about the character of religious beliefs. Scholars have pointed to the ‘culture of disbelief’, where asylum seekers are treated as unreliable and the information they give as suspect. There is a need for further research on the interaction taking place in the interviews between immigration officials and asylum seekers. The subtle processes of interpretation, negotiation, and contestation that take place during the asylum interviews do not likely make their way into written records, even though they may be crucial for the outcome. These aspects need to be examined through a careful analysis of the discursive features of these discussions, while paying attention to the power dynamics involved.

We are currently looking for participants, who have sought asylum from Finland based on persecution due to religious conversion. You may be currently seeking asylum or have already received a decision on your application. We would like to conduct an interview concerning your experiences of the asylum proceedings. The interview would take about 1 to 2 hours. We are also interested in the documents you have from the asylum interviews, if you would like to share them with us. In addition, we plan to record asylum interviews concerning religious conversion with participants who are willing to provide us with such access. If you are interested in participating in the study, we can agree on the extent of your participation during the research interview.

You do not have to commit to anything in advance!

You can find more details about the practicalities of the study from our information sheet in Finnish, English, Arabic, and Farsi.

If you would like to participate or would like to hear more about the study, please contact us via email: