The Icelandic Red Cross, UNICEF Iceland, Save the Children Iceland, and the Icelandic Human Rights Centre strongly criticise a draft bill that would establish detention centres for asylum seekers in Iceland. In its current form, the bill allows for the detention of children for up to nine days and permits staff to “use force in the performance of their duties if considered necessary.” Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir plans to introduce the bill in Parliament by the end of this month.
Oppose the bill on human rights grounds
The draft bill was published in the government’s consultation portal last month, where members of the public, organisations, and interested parties can comment on it. A total of 19 comments were submitted through the platform, only one of which supported the bill. Several human rights organisations in Iceland have submitted formal criticism of the bill through the platform.
The Red Cross criticised the permissions the bill would grant police to detain individuals, asserting that they are unclear and subjective. The Icelandic Human Rights Centre echoed that criticism, asserting that the bill’s measures go further than the European Union’s Return Directive, a document outlining regulations on the deportation of asylum seekers.
Children’s rights at risk
Save the Children Iceland firmly opposed that the bill would permit the detention of children, which they say conflicts with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Detention in closed facilities has a negative impact on children’s development, the organisation stated, and children should not and cannot bear responsibility for their parents or relatives’ actions.
Tightened legislation on asylum seekers
The bill comes on the heels of other new legislation that left dozens of asylum seekers in Iceland homeless and without services last year. The legislation strips asylum seekers in the country of access to state housing, social support, and healthcare 30 days after their applications for asylum have been rejected. It was also strongly criticised by human rights organisations in Iceland.