Foreign Minister Calls for Border Control, Increased Police Powers Skip to content
Palestinian protesters outside Iceland's Parliament
Photo: No Borders Iceland / Facebook. Palestinian protesters camp outside Iceland’s parliament.

Foreign Minister Calls for Border Control, Increased Police Powers

In a Facebook post Friday night, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson called for tighter regulations for asylum seekers and increased border control. He posted a picture of tents pitched by Palestinian protesters outside Alþingi, saying that it was “incomprehensible” that this was allowed.

Palestinian protesters have been camped outside of Alþingi since December 27. The group has made three demands of Icelandic authorities. Firstly, to carry out family reunifications for residents of Gaza whom they have already granted visas. Secondly, a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market. Thirdly, to stop the ongoing deportations of Palestinian people in Iceland and grant them international protection.

Palestinian flags outside Alþingi

“It’s a disaster to see the camp at Austurvöllur,” Bjarni wrote. “It’s absolutely unacceptable that the city of Reykjavík has allowed the camp on this holy site between the statue of Jón Sigurðsson and Alþingi. Yesterday, Reykjavík made things worse by extending the license.”

He went on to write that this “sad camp” had nothing to do with the traditional protests that take place in front of the statue of Iceland’s 19the century independence movement leader and the nation’s Parliament. “The group flies multiple Palestine flags and attaches them to lampposts and tents,” Bjarni wrote. “No one should be allowed to fly any national flag for weeks outside of Iceland’s Alþingi to protest Icelandic authorities.”

Calls for increased police powers

Bjarni went on to write that he understood the concerns and uncertainties of those in Iceland away from their families, many of whom live under terrifying conditions. “However, we must remember that the protesters are in a country that receives many more asylum applications than neighbouring countries,” he wrote and added that Iceland had received more Palestinian people than any other Nordic state.

“The next thing that needs to happen is to tighten regulations about asylum seekers and harmonise them with what our neighbouring countries have in place,” he added. “We need to increase border control. The current arrangement has gone out of control, both with regards to costs and the number of applications.”

Lastly, he wrote that Alþingi had failed by rejecting the Minister of Justice’s proposals on this issue and that the police should be given additional authority to fight international criminal activities.

Most asylum seekers from Ukraine and Venezuela

223 Palestinians applied for asylum last year, Heimildin reports, but total applications were down from the record year of 2022. Nearly 80% of applicants in 2022 and 2023 came from either Ukraine or Venezuela. The current government coalition introduced measures that led to the increase in applications from these countries. Between 2018 and 2021, almost every applicant from Venezuela received international protection, as the government ruled that the situation in Venezuela was too dangerous. Asylum seekers from Ukraine have received international protection since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

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