Directorate of Immigration Accused of Withholding Citizenship Applications from Parliament Skip to content

Directorate of Immigration Accused of Withholding Citizenship Applications from Parliament

By Yelena

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration is refusing to hand over data on applications for citizenship to Alþingi, the country’s Parliament, despite having a legal requirement to do so and repeated requests from the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee, Fréttablaðið reports. MPs that sit on the committee took to the podium in the chamber of Parliament yesterday and urged the Speaker of Parliament to act on the matter.

Along with the standard process of applying for citizenship through the Directorate of Immigration, Icelandic law permits for Alþingi to grant citizenship by decree, which it normally does twice a year. In the past, those who have received citizenship through Parliament have often been individuals in extenuating circumstances. Applications for citizenship through Parliamentary decree nevertheless go through the Directorate of Immigration, which gathers necessary data and sends all the relevant material to Parliament, where it is reviewed by the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee. Parliament was set to grant citizenship to a group of applicants before Christmas last year, but could not do so as the necessary documents had not been received from the Directorate of Immigration.

Read More: Calls to Dismantle Directorate of Immigration

“The Directorate has now for the third time shown Parliament the disrespect of declaring that it will not hand over the requested documents and information, according to the Minister’s instructions,” Pirate Party MP Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir stated, implying that the Directorate’s decision was made in consultation with the Minister of the Interior Jón Gunnarsson, under whose jurisdiction the Directorate operates. Other MPs seconded Arndís’ call for the Speaker of Parliament to act on the matter, both members of the opposition and government.

Left-Green Movement MP Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir called the procedure completely unacceptable. “I find this absolutely unbelievable. There are laws and we must follow them. I have sat on the subcommittee that has discussed these issues about citizenship and as has been stated here, attempts have been made to change the procedure and it may well be that it needs changing. But that does not happen unilaterally in the Ministry, it happens in the proceedings of Alþingi and therefore the Honourable Minister of the Interior must intervene to ensure that Alþingi receives these documents in order to complete its work.”

For the past two parliamentary terms, Pirate Party MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson had a seat in the parliament subcommittee handling citizenship applications. He stated in a speech that the Directorate had repeatedly tried, with the aid of the Ministry, to change procedures so that it wouldn’t have to send so many citizenship applications to parliament. He added: “At the beginning of this term, the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee mostly consisted of newcomers. They were led to believe that last term’s committee had agreed to change procedures to what the Directorate has now unilaterally enforced. I stand here, Madame Speaker, to state that this is a lie. It is the Directorate’s lie that the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee had agreed to the new procedures. We never did in 2018.”

On the other hand, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson expressed his opinion that the number of citizenships granted by Parliament rather than the Directorate of Immigration is abnormally high. Acting Speaker Líneik Anna Sævarsdóttir stated that the Speaker will exert their influence to get a conversation going between Parliament and the executive powers on the communication between the Directorate of Immigration and the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee.

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