Icelandic police are using a new, custom-designed van provided by Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörgsdóttir in mid-May to increase border surveillance and deportations, RÚV reports.
“I think we’re going to find a lot more people,” said capital-area Detective Superintendent Jóhann Karl Þórisson. He says the new van simplifies the inspections process, thereby making it easier to find and identify people who have outstayed their visas in Iceland and/or are working without legal permission. Jóhann Karl said that the van functions as a mobile border checkpoint and will, for instance, be particularly helpful in monitoring passengers disembarking from cruise ships.
‘Then we’ll grab them and throw them out’
However, the mobile checkpoint van is not solely being used to monitor points of entry to the country. Rather, authorities also drive the vehicle to workplaces in search of people who are working without legal permits. Often, these work permit checks are done in collaboration with the Icelandic Revenue and Customs Office and/or the Directorate of Labor, but sometimes, the van is sent out after police receive a tip. Indeed, at the end of May, the van was used in an operation at a construction site in the capital-area municipality of Garðabær, during which four foreign nationals were arrested and two asylum seekers were questioned.
Jóhann Karl freely admitted police also use the van to stop “cars with Albanians or Romanians. Then we check to see if they are who they say they are.” Since the van went into operation in mid-May, police have used it to run checks on almost a hundred people. Around 60 of these checks have occurred at workplaces.
Eight undocumented people have been identified in the course of these checks but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not been made to leave Iceland yet. When travel restrictions are lifted, however, “then we’ll grab them and throw them out,” said Jóhann Karl.
The Ministry of Justice decided in May 2018 to purchase the surveillance van, which costs roughly ISK 27 million [€178,160; $200,526]. A grant from the EU’s Security Fund paid for 75% of the vehicle’s total cost.