Directorate of Immigration Accused of Withholding Citizenship Applications from Parliament

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration is refusing to hand over data on applications for citizenship to Alþingi, the country’s Parliament, despite having a legal requirement to do so and repeated requests from the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee, Fréttablaðið reports. MPs that sit on the committee took to the podium in the chamber of Parliament yesterday and urged the Speaker of Parliament to act on the matter.

Along with the standard process of applying for citizenship through the Directorate of Immigration, Icelandic law permits for Alþingi to grant citizenship by decree, which it normally does twice a year. In the past, those who have received citizenship through Parliament have often been individuals in extenuating circumstances. Applications for citizenship through Parliamentary decree nevertheless go through the Directorate of Immigration, which gathers necessary data and sends all the relevant material to Parliament, where it is reviewed by the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee. Parliament was set to grant citizenship to a group of applicants before Christmas last year, but could not do so as the necessary documents had not been received from the Directorate of Immigration.

Read More: Calls to Dismantle Directorate of Immigration

“The Directorate has now for the third time shown Parliament the disrespect of declaring that it will not hand over the requested documents and information, according to the Minister’s instructions,” Pirate Party MP Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir stated, implying that the Directorate’s decision was made in consultation with the Minister of the Interior Jón Gunnarsson, under whose jurisdiction the Directorate operates. Other MPs seconded Arndís’ call for the Speaker of Parliament to act on the matter, both members of the opposition and government.

Left-Green Movement MP Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir called the procedure completely unacceptable. “I find this absolutely unbelievable. There are laws and we must follow them. I have sat on the subcommittee that has discussed these issues about citizenship and as has been stated here, attempts have been made to change the procedure and it may well be that it needs changing. But that does not happen unilaterally in the Ministry, it happens in the proceedings of Alþingi and therefore the Honourable Minister of the Interior must intervene to ensure that Alþingi receives these documents in order to complete its work.”

For the past two parliamentary terms, Pirate Party MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson had a seat in the parliament subcommittee handling citizenship applications. He stated in a speech that the Directorate had repeatedly tried, with the aid of the Ministry, to change procedures so that it wouldn’t have to send so many citizenship applications to parliament. He added: “At the beginning of this term, the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee mostly consisted of newcomers. They were led to believe that last term’s committee had agreed to change procedures to what the Directorate has now unilaterally enforced. I stand here, Madame Speaker, to state that this is a lie. It is the Directorate’s lie that the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee had agreed to the new procedures. We never did in 2018.”

On the other hand, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson expressed his opinion that the number of citizenships granted by Parliament rather than the Directorate of Immigration is abnormally high. Acting Speaker Líneik Anna Sævarsdóttir stated that the Speaker will exert their influence to get a conversation going between Parliament and the executive powers on the communication between the Directorate of Immigration and the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee.

Icelanders Disappointed With Danish Handballers

The 2022 European Handball Championships has been an emotional rollercoaster for Icelandic handball fans. Unexpected victories following a covid outbreak in the team kept the hope of reaching the semi-finals alive, a much-needed diversion for a nation experiencing severe COVID-related restrictions and gathering bans. The hope was dashed when the Danish men’s national team lost to France in an important match yesterday evening. If Denmark had won the match, Iceland would have moved on to the semi-finals, but must now be content to compete with Norway for fifth place. The Danish team initially had the upper hand but lost it during the last few minutes of the game. The disappointment ignited angry reactions against the country’s former coloniser.

Danish handball player Rasmus Boysen attracted the ire of Icelandic handball enthusiasts on Twitter and wasn’t pleased with their attitude, calling some of their comments disgusting and stating that such comments did not belong in handball. He defended his countrymen and the Danish national team coach stating: “Nikolaj Jacobsen should have only one focus – to win the championship. And if he thinks that’s the chances are biggest by resting the star players versus France, he of course should do that. That’s his job! It’s sad for Iceland, but you need to accept that.”

Hagkaup grocery store management has decided to indefinitely postpone their scheduled “Danish Days” celebrating Danish products in light of recent events surrounding the European Handball Championships.

“It needs to be the right moment for this kind of event,” Hagkaup CEO Sigurður Reynaldsson told Vísir. “We want to take all precautions and celebrate Danish Days once the nation has forgotten and moved on to brighter days ahead,” Sigurður added. Hagkaup hosts the annual marketing campaign early each year, offering an array of Danish products, decorating their stores with the Danish flag.

Other companies have also reacted to the outcome, with Danish-style smørrebrød restaurant Jómfrúin apologising on Denmark’s behalf, offering free drinks at lunch to “calm people’s nerves”.

Pirate Party MP Björn Leví Gunnarsson also caused a stir on Twitter sharing his parliamentary resolution suggesting that the crown and seal of Danish king Christian IX be removed from Iceland’s Parliament building and replaced with a symbol of the Icelandic nation. In an interview with Vísir, Björn Leví confirmed that the image he posted online was not a joke, but it was not a result of handball’s fans irritation towards the Danish team, as it was handed in before the Denmark-France match. He stated that instead, the resolution was spurred on by his discomfort that Iceland’s Parliament operated in a building marked by a Danish king even though there was no longer any connection between Iceland’s parliament and Danish nobility.

Iceland was brought under the Danish crown with the Kalmar Union in 1415 and remained under Danish control for centuries, becoming a sovereign state under the Danish king in 1918 and finally declaring full independence in 1944. The parliament building was built in 1881 during Christian IX’s rule.

Tomorrow’s match with Norway, another country that ruled Iceland in the past (1262-1415), also provides some excitement. A win in the match would give the Icelandic team fifth place in the tournament and a guaranteed ride to the 2023 World Men’s Handball Championship.

A Difficult Read

Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir rithöfundur

Every New Year’s Eve for a decade, Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir made the resolution to write a book. It took a while, but in 2019, Magma was published – a harrowing story about how a young woman loses herself within the confines of an emotionally abusive relationship affected by the pornification of society.It was published in February, […]

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