Opposition Parties, Red Cross Criticise Proposed Changes to Asylum Seeker Legislation Skip to content

Opposition Parties, Red Cross Criticise Proposed Changes to Asylum Seeker Legislation

By Yelena

Austurvöllur - Hælisleitendur - flóttamenn - Alþingi refugees Iceland
Photo: Golli. Refugees protest in front of Iceland’s Parliament in 2019..

Iceland’s Minister of Justice has resubmitted proposed changes to legislation governing international protection that she says will help shorten wait times for asylum seekers. Opposition parties and the Red Cross have criticised the changes, saying they prevent the Directorate of Immigration and the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board from evaluating applicants on a case-by-case basis.

Critics of the amendments have focused on one article in particular concerning applicants that have been granted international protection in other countries, such as Greece or Hungary. Such applicants are most often sent back to those countries, despite living conditions for refugees that have been deemed inadequate by the Council of Europe and international rights watchdogs.

Read More: Asylum Seeker Deportations

“Exceptional individuals that have been in very special conditions, we’re talking about children with long-term illnesses, people with mental disorders and unaccompanied children as well, have had their cases processed and as a result received protection, but with this bill the Directorate of Immigration and Appeals Board’s permission to consider these factors is being removed,” Guðríður Lára Þrastardóttir, a lawyer at the Red Cross, told RÚV.

Opposition party members have also criticised this aspect of the bill, including Pirate Party MP Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir. “It means no hope for families that we have previously allowed to stay, precisely because there are special circumstances in their cases,” Þórhildur Sunna stated. “This is totally irresponsible. If we want to be considered a moral and responsible society in the international community then we don’t do this.” The Left-Green Movement, one of three parties in the government coalition, has stated it will not approve the bill without changes that make it possible to consider children’s applications on a case-by-case basis.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also submitted comments on the proposed changes. In a document submitted in August last year, the UNHCR stated it was “concerned” about some of the ways the proposal seeks to streamline asylum procedures. “In particular, the safe country concepts, and accelerated examination procedures, without sufficient procedural safeguards, as currently proposed, raise serious concerns.”

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