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Decline in Applications for Asylum

By Iceland Review

The Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) has not published an annual report since 2014 due to what it claims is an “unprecedented increase in applications for international protection,” Kjarninn reports. Nevertheless, statistics available on the ÚTL website show that there has been a decline in the number of refugees applying for asylum in Iceland since 2016.

The Minister of Justice’s statement regarding the unpublished annual reports was made in answer to Pirate Party MP Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson’s request for this missing documentation. The statement noted that the annual reports for years 2015, 2016, and 2017 are in progress and are expected to be available shortly. It also emphasized that ÚTL has added “a lot of statistical information about the applications for international protection on its website…” much of which, it said, will be part of the annual reports. The statistical information also includes data on applications for residence permits, which the office says have “increased a great deal in recent years.”

Kjarninn reports, however, that the number of refugees in Iceland has, in fact, been on the decline. This appears to be a continuing trend this year, as the number of applicants for asylum in the first four months of 2018 is less than the number of applicants last year. From January to April 2018, 181 individuals applied for international protection in Iceland. The largest number of these individuals—34 people—are from Iraq, followed by Palestine (18), Albania (17), Pakistan (14), and Georgia (12). By contrast, during the same period of time in 2017, 290 people applied for international protection in Iceland.

All total, 1,096 people applied for asylum in Iceland in 2017, whereas 1,132 people applied for asylum in 2016. Of the applicants for asylum in 2017, only 135—or one in ten applicants—were granted international protection and the right to live in Iceland. The largest number of those who were approved for asylum, or 38 individuals, were from Iraq, followed by 26 from Afghanistan, and 21 from Syria.

Of the 1,132 people who applied for international protection in 2016, 111 were granted asylum. 28 of these individuals were from Iraq, 18 were from Syria, 14 were from Iran, 9 were from Nigeria, and 7 were from El Salvador.

Asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their asylum application receive a small stipend from the government while they wait. This stipend is set at ISK 8,000 [$75] per week, or ISK 23,000 [$216] for a four-person family. An additional allowance of ISK 2,700 [$25] per adult and ISK 1,000 [$9] per child is allotted per week.

A review of governmental expenses related to asylum seekers in the first six months of 2017 showed that associated costs totaled ISK 2.2 billion [$20,651,459], which was ISK 1.251 million [$11,743,170] more than had been planned for. This can be attributed to the fact that there was a significant increase in asylum applications between 2015 and 2016. At the time, some parliamentarians suggested that these rising expenses could be expected to reach upwards of ISK 6 billion [$56,310,000]. However, expenses related to asylum seekers this year are expected to be far below such projections, or ISK 2.7 billion [$25,344,972].

ÚTL’s aslyum statistics for the years 2018 (Jan – April), 2017, and 2016 can be found (in English) on their website, here.

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