Icelandic authorities are set to deport around 300 asylum seekers, some of whom have been living in the country for a long time and put down roots. Many of the deportations were delayed due to the COVID pandemic, but Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has opposed making exceptions that would allow any of the group to stay in Iceland due to extenuating circumstances. Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson has stated, however, that he is examining whether there are grounds for granting some of the individuals work permits that would allow them to stay in the country.
Exceptions for some groups
In a radio interview this morning, the Minister of Justice opposed making exceptions for some groups of asylum seekers over others. “What are we going to do with the people who come tomorrow then? Should the rules then apply to them or should we let the old rules apply? Just change the rules for these people and not others?” Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson stated, saying that such changes were not as simple as many people believed. In March of this year, Jón triggered a special article of Icelandic law to assist Ukrainian refugees arriving in Iceland by granting them international protection on the basis of a group assessment.
Most sent to Greece
The reason that the group of potential deportees is so high essentially boils down to restrictions that were in place during the height of the global COVID pandemic, the Minister of Justice has stated. The individuals facing deportation are from a number of different countries, and Iceland plans to send most of them back to Greece.
Reports from Amnesty International and statements from the Icelandic Red Cross and other human rights organisations in Iceland have condemned the living conditions faced by refugees in Greece, who often have difficult accessing housing and basic services, even in cases where they have been granted international protection. The Minister of Justice denied this was the case, stating that refugees who had received protection in Greece “have the same living conditions as Greek people do.”
Children’s rights a factor
Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson was singing a different tune when he spoke to Vísir reporters following a cabinet meeting today, however. He stated that he was reviewing whether there was a basis to grant some of the individuals in the group work permits that would allow them to continue living in Iceland. Among the group are families with children who have been attending school in Iceland, and Guðmundur Ingi stated that the rights of those children were an important factor to consider.
Refugee rights organisations Solaris, Refugees in Iceland, and No Borders Iceland have organised a protest against the deportations this Saturday, May 28 in Austurvöllur square.