76 Ukrainians Have Applied For Asylum in Iceland

Protest

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 76 Ukrainians have applied for asylum in Iceland, Border Division Police Chief Jón Pétur Jónsson told MBL.is.

However, an even higher number of Ukrainian nationals arriving in Iceland recently could indicate that many are exercising their right to reside in the country for up to three months before officially applying for protection. Jón Pétur said border police could not rule out that scenario.

He said authorities are considering increasing the preparedness level at the border to better handle the stress of arrivals from Ukraine on the immigration system. Iceland’s Social Affairs Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson will appoint a special response team to coordinate the reception of refugees from Ukraine.

“We are looking holistically at the reception system, from the time an individual arrives in the country until they receive services,” Jón Pétur said. “The reception system is resetting itself now that Article 44 of the Foreign Nationals Act is active.”

Article 44 of the Foreign Nationals Act provides for the collective protection of foreign nationals in the event of mass exodus. Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson triggered the article on March 3.

Including the recent applicants from Ukraine, 320 individuals have applied for asylum in Iceland so far this year — a seven-year high.

 

70% of Icelanders May Have Already Had COVID-19

COVID-19 briefing Iceland Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason wrote in his latest column on covid.is that he estimates the actual number of Icelanders who have been infected with the coronavirus to be as much as double the number of people formally diagnosed. That would mean that around 70% of Icelanders have had COVID-19.

Should that be the case, Iceland could reach the pandemic’s peak in the next few weeks, after which time diagnoses will start to drop, Þórólfur predicts.

COVID-19 is still a serious problem

In his column, Þórólfur reminds the public that COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly through the community, and though the number of tests being conducted is decreasing that doesn’t mean cases are dropping.

3,367 cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Iceland on Feb. 28 — 3,215 through rapid testing and 152 through PCR.

He also said the health care system is feeling the pressure.

“At Landspítali, about 10 individuals are admitted daily with or due to COVID-19, and slightly less are discharged,” Þórólfur wrote. “Today, 55 people are in hospital with/due to the disease, three of them in the intensive care unit, all on a ventilator.”

He says it is important that everyone realizes that COVID-19 is still a significant health issue in Iceland, despite official disease control measures being lifted. “Everyone is encouraged to continue to use individual disease control measures aimed at delaying the spread of COVID-19 and preventing uncontrollable strain on our healthcare system.”

Samherji Journalist Wins Appeal Against Northeast Iceland Police

The Northeast Iceland District Court has ruled on Stundin journalist Aðalsteinn Kjartansson’s appeal to determine the legality of a police investigation into his and other journalists’ alleged distribution of sexual material from the stolen phone of a Samherji ship captain. The judge concluded that Northeast Iceland Police chief Páley Borgþórsdóttir was wrong to give official defendant status to Aðalsteinn on those grounds, Vísir reports.

As previously reported, four journalists are under investigation by Northeast Iceland Police. While it initially appeared the investigation was into the journalists’ reporting on leaked communications between several Samherji employees calling themselves the company’s “guerrilla division.” However, they were instead accused of violating Articles 228 and 229 of the Penal Code — legislation implemented to protect victims of digital sexual violence. They were given the legal status of defendants in the case.

A law isn’t broken by a journalist receiving data

As per news site Stundin, the Northeast Iceland District Court determined the journalists were not considered to have breached the law simply for receiving and viewing sensitive personal data since it is part of a journalist’s job to receive data and tips and determine if it is in the public interest to pursue them.

The ruling notes that, in general, the mere act of receiving and opening data sent without the recipient’s consent is not a criminal offence.

A case built on sand?

The district court’s verdict also states that it cannot be concluded from police documents that ship captain Páll Steingrímsson contacted the police because of the personal videos on his phone, which the police claimed to be the reason for Aðalsteinn being named as a defendant.

Gunnar Ingi Jóhannsson, Aðalsteinn’s lawyer, told Stundin the ruling confirms his argument that “the police’s case against the journalists is built on sand.”

Housing Shortage Won’t Prohibit Iceland Receiving Ukrainian Refugees

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said Monday that issues surrounding the Directorate of Immigration’s housing facilities will not deter or delay Iceland’s reception of refugees from Ukraine, and preparations are already underway, Vísir reports.

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told Vísir last week that “there is a real state of emergency at the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL),” exacerbated by the unwillingness of asylum seekers in Iceland to undergo PCR testing required as a condition of their deportation from the country. He said the Directorate’s difficulties in carrying out deportations of some refugees is resulting in less housing and fewer facilities available to welcome other refugees that the government is willing to welcome

During question period in Alþingi Monday, Social Democratic Alliance MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir called the Minister of Justice’s comments unacceptable and asked the Prime Minister if they were reflective of the government’s policy.

Katrín replied that many people are in very vulnerable positions and it matters how those groups are talked about.

Furthermore, she said the status of ÚTL’s housing will not hinder Iceland’s reception of Ukrainian refugees. Katrín noted that the Minister of Social Affairs had already met with the Refugee Committee and preparations had already begun to receive them.

The Prime Minister reminded Alþingi that half a million Ukrainians have already fled the country since the Russian armed forces began their invasion on Feb. 24, and that figure could increase to four to five million. She said a large proportion of those who have fled will likely want to return to their home country when the situation allows, so both short- and long-term arrangements need to be considered.

“I would like to note that it is not long since the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan and the Icelandic government initially decided to receive a certain number of people and then decided to receive a larger number of Afghan refugees because we felt it was important to take responsibility for the global community. In relative terms, we actually welcomed more people than other Nordic countries did on that occasion. So when we look at what has previously been done, we have not shied away from taking responsibility,” Katrín said.