Processing Time for Asylum Applications Will Be Shorter Skip to content
Asylum seeker protest Reykjavík

Processing Time for Asylum Applications Will Be Shorter

Minister of Justice Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir authorized the Directore of Immigration to shorten the processing time for refugee applications and designated additional funding to the office to make this possible, RÚV reports. She emphasized that children’s application should be given first priority, “[b]ecause ten to twelve months is a long time. In reality, it’s longer for children than for adults because they are quicker to put down roots,” she remarked.

New regulations may not prevent planned deportations

Þórdís Kolbrún announced this decision on Friday in the wake of protests earlier in the week against the planned deportation of two Afghan families with children. On Thursday, a crowd of an estimated 1,000 protesters marched from Hallgrímskirkja church to Austurvöllur square in front of Alþingi to show solidarity with single father Asadullah Sarwary and his ten and nine-year-old sons, Mahdi and Ali, as well as with single mother Shahnaz Safari and her 12-year-old son Amir and 14-year-old daughter Zainab. Both families are currently set to be deported back to Greece, where they already received international protection status, but where the Red Cross has deemed living conditions for children with this status to be unfit.

Þórdís Kolbrún said she could not comment on whether Friday’s decision would have any impact on both family’s deportations. “I can’t answer exactly what the result will be, as the decision isn’t mine. We are only reviewing the system and presenting specific suggestions.” Following Friday’s change in regulations, the next step will be to appoint someone not involved in parliament to oversee a specially designated parliamentary committee on issues relating to foreigners.

“We need to take a humane approach to the reception of immigrants and refugees”

Iceland has not deported refugees to Greece on the basis of the Dublin regulation in nearly a decade. There are, however, additional regulations regarding people who have received international protections in Greece, as the Afghan families set to be deported have. People who receive international protection in Greece do not go through the asylum system there, which has been deemed to be unacceptable.

When asked to comment further on the Left-Green leadership’s policies on asylum issues, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said: “Our policy is based on the idea that we need to take a humane approach to the reception of immigrants and refugees. This is the same standard as what we have for immigration law: if we think that it isn’t working like it should, then it’s important to examine it and that’s what we’re doing.”

Katrín noted that international organizations are not in agreement about the living conditions of people who have been granted international protection in Greece. “The Red Cross has now come forward with its concerns about the situation in Greece,” she explained. “The reason it was sent to Greece is that [Iceland is a member] of the UN Refugee Agency. We follow their instructions.”

Þórdís Kolbrún has requested a meeting with the Red Cross to further discuss the living conditions for people with international protection in Greece and says that this needs to be situated within the broader context of living conditions in that country in general. “…[I]ndividuals who’ve received international protection and are in Greece are, in reality, in the same situation as Greek citizens who require social assistance,” she said. “This needs to be looked at in that context as well.”

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