Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson distributed his bill to amend the Foreign Nationals Act among members of Parliament today. If passed into law, the bill would, among other things, strip asylum seekers of their rights 30 days after their applications have been rejected.
“A difficult situation”
Last spring, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson announced his intention of submitting a bill to Parliament that would amend the Foreign Nationals Act. The Foreign National Act concerns the “authorisation of foreign nationals to enter Iceland, their stay in the country, and their right to international protection.”
Earlier this month, Jón observed that the government was facing a “difficult situation” when it came to asylum seekers in Iceland. He maintained that the welfare system was unable to cope with increased demand and that it was his hope that the new bill would help to solve “certain problems.” As noted by RÚV, a record number of individuals (2,500) have applied for international protection in Iceland this year.
Speaking to RÚV, Jón maintained that it was the “government’s duty” to establish a closed facility for asylum seekers whose applications for international protection had been rejected. “This means that individuals are placed in particular housing, with limited access, limited freedom to travel, while they wait to be deported.”
Jón added: “We’re dealing with a specific problem when it comes to deportations, namely that we’re unable to reach certain individuals, we don’t know where they are, or whether they’ve left the country.”
Backlash and disagreement
The minister’s rhetoric inspired immediate criticism from members of the Pirate and Reform parties, among others, who accused Jón of stoking fear with “vague claims and assertions” about asylum seekers.
PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who leads the cabinet to which Jón Gunnarsson belongs, stated that she disagreed with the Minister of Justice’s assertion that “chaos reigned” in matters relating to asylum seekers in Iceland.
Addressing Parliament, Katrín remarked that the situation in Iceland was merely a reflection of unprecedented times and the offshoot of two governmental decisions in Iceland, namely to receive a greater number of refugees from Ukraine and Venezuela.
Asylum seekers stripped of rights 30 days after rejection
This morning, the Minister’s bill was distributed among members of Parliament. It marked the fifth time that such an amendment was submitted to Parliament.
As noted by RÚV, the bill stipulates that the rights of a foreign national (the right to housing, healthcare, etc.) whose application for international protection has been rejected be stripped 30 days after said rejection. This would, according to the authors’ rationale, prevent individuals from seeking services, even for years on end, after they’ve been made to leave the country.
If passed into law, asylum seekers would “no longer have access to healthcare or schools; however, the rights of children; parents or custodians; pregnant women; or disabled individuals with long-term support needs cannot be revoked.”
To review the bill in Icelandic, click here.