The Icelandic Red Cross plans to launch an independent investigation into police actions in the Reykjanesbaer municipality in southwest Iceland earlier this month in which the dwellings of asylum seekers were searched and documents and money confiscated.
“We think there is reason to investigate this case thoroughly. We have begun preparing the inquiry and plan to have outside parties undertake the investigation with specific attention to the execution of the house search,” Red Cross project leader Atli Vidar Thorstensen told Morgunbladid.
After the house search, members of the Red Cross had conversations with the asylum seekers involved, who revealed that they face prejudice in the community where they live and worry that these police actions will make matters worse by branding them as a homogenous group that has something to hide.
Thorstensen claimed that the authorities have not reported formally to the Red Cross regarding the results of the house search.
The Red Cross also believes there is reason to investigate declarations made by the government and its representatives. “Some are directly questionable and others plainly wrong and will not improve the situation of asylum seekers,” Thorstensen said.
Thorstensen said that according to one statement, asylum seekers were provided with free cigarettes. Thorstensen disclaims this statement saying instead that asylum seekers are provided with food and accommodation by Reykjanesbaear municipality and with clothing by the Red Cross. After four weeks in the country they are entitled to ISK 2,500 (USD 27, EUR 19) in pocket money per week.
ISK 1.6 million (USD 17,000, EUR 12,000) in cash was confiscated during the house search and authorities have claimed that it is suspicious that people who sign a declaration saying they have no money when they arrive in Iceland are in the possession of such a large amount of money.
“We don’t think it is a large amount,” Thorstensen said. “It is about 40,000 krónur [USD 432, EUR 300] for each person on average,” adding that one million of the amount seized was taken from one family.
“It is not unusual that people have a few thousand krónur in their hands,” Thorstensen stated. “Some have been here for close to three years and have saved from their pocket money.”
The police have informed the Red Cross that some asylum seekers have been given back their money and others will probably receive their money next week.
Thorstensen said there are certainly incidents of people applying for political asylum in Iceland abusing the system. But there are also examples of people coming to Iceland who don’t want to stay and apply for asylum in Canada instead.
“People know that they have a much better change of being granted asylum there than here. The percentage is up to 40 percent in Canada but below one percent here,” Thorstensen said.
Thorstensen said there were also examples of people who had been convicted for forgery after submitting passports that didn’t belong to them upon arrival in Iceland, but still received political asylum on humanitarian grounds.
“In many cases there can be a natural explanation for people submitting a passport that doesn’t belong to them,” Thorstensen said. “Such as not being granted a passport in their own country.”
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