Two sisters, born in Iceland with parents from Senegal are among the 30 people the majority of the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee suggests will be granted Icelandic citizenship. They are three and six years old respectively, and their case attracted media interest when their family was denied asylum.
The committee’s majority, excluding one member of parliament, the Centre party’s Þorsteinn Sæmundsson, has presented a bill to Parliament that would grant 30 foreign citizens Icelandic citizenship. Parliament processes such bills regularly and the bill is expected to pass. The family’s attorney Elín Árnadóttir told RÚV that the family and all their friends are on cloud nine after receiving the news. They didn’t know until yesterday that it would be suggested that the girls be granted citizenship. According to Elín, the girls’ parents will receive visas to stay in Iceland on grounds of uniting a family.
The sisters, Marthe and Marie, live in Iceland with their parents who have resided here for seven years. Their parents Bassirou Ndiaye and Mahe Diouf fled Senegal because Bassirou is Christian but Mahe is Muslim and they didn’t consider themselves safe in their home country.
The couple moved to Iceland in 2013, applying for a work and residential visa. Once they were denied the visa, they were due to be deported but by then, Mahe was pregnant and the deportation was postponed. After birth, they applied for a visa on humanitarian grounds in 2015, as their older daughter was an infant and Mahe was very sick. The process took a long time but they were denied a visa in October 2016. They applied for international asylum in 2017 but their application was denied in January 2018. The application denial was appealed to the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board which confirmed in March 2018. The family applied for a delay of judicial effects which was granted. The case was brought before the district court and on to the Landsréttur appellate court, which confirmed the ruling at the end of October last year. Since then, the family has hoped that the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board will rehear their case. Last November, a list of 21,000 signatures was presented to the Minister of Justice, challenging her to grant the family a visa.
Parliament received 133 applications for citizenship of which 30 were granted. The list of 30 people to be granted Icelandic citizenship also features Afghan mother and daughter Maryam Raísi and Torpikey Farrash, whose pending deportation was protested in 2016 and another high-profile name, British pop singer Damon Albarn who has a longstanding connection to Iceland. The oldest person to be granted citizenship with this bill is born in Afghanistan in 1955 and the youngest is born in Iceland in 2019.