The Church of Iceland has issued a resolution condemning the Directorate of Immigration for withdrawing housing and food allowances for a group of asylum seekers that are set to be deported, Fréttablaðið reports. The Directorate of Immigration revoked housing and food allowances from 14 men, most from Palestine, after they refused to undergo the testing for COVID-19 required for their deportation. Hundreds participated in a Reykjavík protest in support of the group last Saturday.
The Directorate of Immigration withdrew housing and food allowances from a group of 14 men earlier this month after they refused to undergo COVID-19 testing that was a prerequisite to their deportation to Greece. The men have also been barred access to other services, including healthcare, with at least one reporting that a medical appointment was cancelled following the Directorate of Immigration’s decision to withdraw services. Most of the men are from Palestine, while others are from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other countries.
The Directorate aims to deport the men to Greece, where they have received international protection. Asylum seekers entering Europe often do so through Greece and are consequently granted international protection in the country allowing (though not obligating) other European countries to deport them back to Greece. The Council of Europe, the Red Cross, and many human rights organisations have deemed living conditions in Greece to be unfit for refugees, who often lack access to basic services there including healthcare, housing, and education. The Palestinian men within the group have issued a statement pleading for the government to reconsider their cases (see post above).
“It is highly reprehensible that the Icelandic government is using force and deliberately making people homeless in a society that aims to have Christian values and human rights as a guiding principle. It is also unacceptable that people should be sent back to conditions in Greece that are by no means safe, as many international reports indicate, and that people’s only choice lies in deciding in which country they want to be homeless,” the Church’s resolution states. The Church’s statement calls on Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir and the Director-General of the Directorate of Immigration to take immediate action to reverse their decision.