A deadlock has arisen in the cases of a group of applicants for international protection under the new immigration laws. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has publicly called for the matter to be clarified, with Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir stating that the law is quite clear: municipalities bear no responsibility for refugees and asylum seekers. RÚV reports.
Normally, individuals who have received a final rejection for protection have 30 days to leave the country. At the end of that period, they lose all services. But recently, a debate has begun centred around who should take responsible for this group of people, whether the municipalities or the state.
A need for clarity
The Minister of Social Affairs has recently stated that the municipalities should handle this group, but the municipalities argue that it’s the responsibility of the state. This debate has caused Prime Minister Katrín to weigh in on the matter, stating “Naturally, it cannot be expected that full services will be provided here when the administrative process in the protection system is completed, and the denial does not occur at just one but two administrative levels.”
The Prime Minister has acknowledged that there is a disagreement about the interpretation of the laws, and it’s important to resolve it. The matter was discussed at a cabinet meeting this morning.
The current debate is part of a long-standing discussion about the treatment and legal rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Iceland. Some in government have also looked to Nordic peers for possible solutions. Some Nordic countries limit services in stages in so-called departure facilities. On such facilities, Katrín stated: “It’s not an idea that I necessarily find appealing, but it’s evident that an explanation is needed about what comes next.”
Asylum seekers “responsible for themselves”
However, Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, the Minister of Justice, has stated that the matter is quite clear legally. She says that the ultimate responsibility lies with the individuals who have come to this country and applied for protection.
“This group of people has undergone a two-stage administrative process, involving the Immigration Agency and the Immigration Appeals Board. The conditions that have been set as a basis have not been met,” she stated recently. “Their cases have been concluded, and a decision has been reached. The decision is that these individuals have not been granted protection in Iceland. Therefore, they cannot stay, and they should leave the country.
The Ministry of Justice believes furthermore that municipalities are not responsible for this group: “I emphasize that if municipalities wish to have a different approach, they can do so. The laws are clear, however. People must leave the country 30 days after receiving a rejection for protection.”