Applications for asylum in Iceland are the highest they’ve been since November 2016, RÚV reports. The resulting stress on the police, the border, and the immigration processing system is such that the National Commissioner of Police may raise the border response plan’s preparedness level to Alert Phase.
Such were among the findings of a status report that the office of the National Commissioner released this week regarding overload at the Icelandic border and the possible activation of an emergency response plan to better deal with the influx of asylum applications.
According to the report, 182 individuals from 15 different countries applied for asylum in Iceland in February. Most of these applicants are from Venezuela; 20 are from Palestine. There are 96 total asylum cases under consideration, 25 of which include children—some of whom have traveled alone, without any adult family members.
Of the 182 applicants, 132 individuals have a “no hit” status in the EURODAC biometric database. EURODAC facilitates “the application of the Dublin Regulation, which determines which Member State is responsible for the assessment of an asylum claim presented in the European Union and the Associated Dublin States (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).” Under this system, participating states must take and record the fingerprints of any asylum seeker over the age of 14. So if an asylum seeker is “no hit” in Iceland, it means that Iceland is the first participating country they’ve entered and their application is supposed to be reviewed there.
Due to the high number of applications last month, not all of February’s asylum seekers have been fingerprinted or photographed yet. The report notes that in the final few days of last month, asylum seekers had to stand in line for hours at Bæjarhraun 18, where both the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) and a police station are located. ÚTL has requested additional equipment so that they will be able to take fingerprints and photographs at two different stations going forward. The equipment is expected to arrive in the coming days.
ÚTL has also rented out three hotels in the capital area to accommodate asylum seekers who are waiting to have their cases reviewed. It is expected that these will be filled to capacity within the next few days, which means that additional accommodations will be needed. If additional staff people is not provided to assist in the review of asylum cases, it is expected that the wait times on these applications will be long.