Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir says the case of an Egyptian family that is to be deported tomorrow is not evidence of systemic issues when it comes to the treatment of asylum seekers in Iceland. The family of six has lived in Iceland for over two years and applied for political asylum. The Judicial Affairs and Education Committee is meeting to discuss the family’s case today.
Áslaug Arna says she had investigated why the family had stayed in Iceland so long without a resolution to their case. “My investigation revealed that it is not the system’s fault in this individual case,” she stated in a radio interview this morning. Asked whether she could change policy and make the decision to allow the family to stay, Áslaug responded: “No, the Minister does not make such decisions and it would be necessary to change regulations and laws. No specific issues in the system have been identified that need to be changed in order for this family to fall within it.”
The time period the family has lived in Iceland is particularly significant: last year, new regulations issued by the Ministry of Justice mandated that visas be granted on humanitarian grounds any time court proceedings regarding asylum applications dragged on for longer than 16 months. In the case of this particular family, for reasons that were not explained by the Minister, the time that they waited to have their initial application reviewed prior to the appeal is not being figured into the overall wait time. A lawyer for the Red Cross has since called this selective time-keeping “unacceptable” and said that the current law needs to be changed.
Over 12,000 Have Signed Petition in Support of Family
The decision to deport the family has elicited harsh criticism, particularly due to the four children – Rewida, Abdalla, Hamza, and Mustafa – who have adapted to life in the country and learned Icelandic. Over 12,500 have signed a petition urging the government to let the family stay. Magnús Davíð Norðdahl, the family’s lawyer, and Salvör Nordal, the Ombudsman for Children, have both criticised the decision, particularly as it violates the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iceland is party.
The two parents, Doaa and Ibrahim, told reporters they feared being arrested upon arrival to Egypt due to their previous activities in support of the political opposition in the country. They are concerned their children would be taken from them and left to fend for themselves. “I am speaking to you for my children,” Doaa told reporters. “They will be in the street after that. Please, please, please don’t let me alone.”
The family is set to be deported tomorrow.