Venezuelan Asylum Seekers Challenge Directorate of Immigration Rulings

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Some 2,000 people from Venezuela have applied for asylum in Iceland since the beginning of last year. Last summer, Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration ruled that applicants from Venezuela should be given asylum, but this ruling was overturned last month after the Directorate of Immigration reevaluated conditions in Venezuela and came to the conclusion that they had changed. Five applications from the country that the Directorate has rejected are being appealed to the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board, which has yet to take a stance regarding this change. RÚV reported on the issue.

Crimes against humanity in Venezuela

Jón Sigurðsson, chairman of the Association of Asylum Seeker Representatives (Félag talsmanna umsækjenda um alþjóðlega vernd) says the association disagrees with the Directorate’s assessment and that conditions in Venezuela have certainly not changed for the better. “People’s situation in relation to the government, how the government treats protesters and political opponents, and the fear towards authorities that people live with, that’s a big part of why people need protection,” Jón stated. He points out that a United Nations report stated that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela. “And it’s at the behest of the government.”

Residents of Venezuela face shortages of basic necessities, such as water, electricity, food, and healthcare. “There’s a shortage of all necessities, so people can’t live a decent life.” Some 1,600 residents of Venezuela are currently waiting for a ruling from the Directorate of Immigration. Some have already been denied asylum, and five had appealed the decision. A ruling on the appeal is expected within the next three months. Jón says it is contradictory to deny people asylum based on new data and reports written this year, many months after the people arrived in Iceland.

220 asylum seekers, 45 children, to be deported

Deportation of asylum seekers to Venezuela has not begun, but staff of the Police Commissioner’s Office are scheduled to deport 220 people from Iceland in the near future, including 45 children. Most of those who are awaiting deportation are from Nigeria, Iraq, and Palestine, and the largest group (around 60 people) will be deported to Greece, a practice that has been criticised by human rights organisations in Iceland for years.

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson recently stated the Icelandic government needs to “go further” in encouraging asylum seekers whose applications had been rejected to leave the country. He has proposed legislation that would offer applicants increased financial incentive to leave the country in the case of rejected asylum applications. The Directorate of Immigration operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice.

Guðmundur Felix May Lose His Arms A Second Time

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Guðmundur Felix, an Icelander famous for being the recipient of one of the world’s first-ever double arm transplants, may be in danger of losing his arms for a second time.

While working as an electronics engineer in 1998, Guðmundur Felix received a high-voltage shock while working on power lines. Suffering an 8 metre [26 foot] fall, he broke his back and fractured his neck and ribs. Following a period of unconsciousness, he awoke to find that his arms had been amputated.

In January 2021, however, he was one of the first people in the world to receive a double-arm transplant. He currently lives in Lyon in France, where he has found a medical team that specialises in such operations.

Read more: Guðmundur Felix Talks About His Arm Transplant

Now, unfortunately, he may be in danger of losing his arms again.

Guðmundur Felix’s full statement can be found below on social media.

 

Approximately a year and a half after his surgery, his body may be rejecting his arms. Guðmundur Felix began noticing tell-tale signs of the rejection recently, which included red spots on his arms and fingernails falling out.

Generally, such rejections of transplanted limbs occur sooner after the surgery, but late rejections are not unheard of.

In his statement, he also said that he is currently on a strong regimen of steroids that acts as a “bomb” on his immune system, which may suppress his body’s rejection of the limb.

 

Warehouse Fire in Hafnarfjörður

It took firefighters around six hours to put out a fire that started at a Hafnarfjörður warehouse last night in the Reykjavík capital area, RÚV reports. No injuries were reported, but the fire destroyed the building, which had been empty for some time. The cause of the incident is still unknown, but it is being investigated by the police’s forensics department.

Police received reports of the fire around 8:30 PM last night and all available firefighters were called out to the scene. The warehouse was empty, but the fire spread to an attached storage unit and burned the contents inside, which included tyres. Some gas cylinders inside the burning building caused minor explosions. A favourable wind direction blew the smoke out to sea, limiting the spread of the fire and smoke pollution in nearby areas.

A screenshot from RÚV

Conditions at the scene were difficult. As the building was covered with corrugated iron on the outside, firefighting crews had to rip off the roof to get at the fire. No firefighters were sent into the building as there were no valuables to recover.

Owner lost another building in a fire four years ago

The house is owned by Hafnarfell hf., which in the ownership of fishing operator Haraldur Reynir Jónasson. Haraldur lost another building in Hafnarfjörður harbour to a fire four years ago. Reporters were unable to get a statement from Haraldur, who is abroad as of the time of writing.

The part of the warehouse where the fire is believed to have broken out has not been in use for some time, but was previously used as a shipbuilding workshop. Two companies operate in the other part of the building, a machine shop and a company that uses part of the building as a storage space.

In Focus: Opioid Crisis

opioid crisis iceland

In April of this year, National Broadcaster RÚV reported that social media had “been abuzz with rumours” concerning the inordinate number of drug-related deaths in 2023 in Iceland. Some of those rumours claimed that 15 people had died from addiction-related problems over the preceding two weeks; others that there had been 35 addiction-related deaths since […]

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