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Photo: Refugees in Iceland/Instagram.

Asylum Seekers Arrested at Immigration Office

Two asylum seekers were arrested at a Directorate of Immigration office in the capital area yesterday. The two men, who are from Palestine, went to the Hafnarfjörður office to pick up vaccination certificates and were arrested shortly after their arrival. They are set to be deported to Greece.

The arrest was first reported on by Refugees in Iceland, a self-organised group of activists and refugees. “Just a moment ago two young Palestinians were violently arrested at the immigration office (ÚTL) in Bæjarhraun 18,” a post made on the Refugees in Iceland Instagram page yesterday reads. “They came to Bæjarhraun in good faith, since the immigration office had told them that their vaccination certificate had been issued and that they could come and pick it up. At their arrival at the immigration office the staff there called the police, which came with six cars, along with the special forces, eye witness say [sic]. They were then told that they were now ready to be deported to Greece.”

According to the post, the two men were “violently arrested and beaten.” Refugees in Iceland reports that one witness tried to record the arrest on their phone, which was then confiscated by police, who deleted the content.

Directorate of Immigration Communications Officer Þórhildur Hagalín told Vísir the Directorate would not comment on the incident and directed questions to the National Police Commissioner. The Commissioner’s Chief Legal Officer Helgi Valberg Jensson told the outlet that the Commissioner’s supporting department had been executing the Directorate of Immigration’s request for deportation from Iceland but that the Commissioner’s Office could not otherwise comment on specific cases. Helgi did not respond to questions regarding police behaviour witnesses reported from the scene, including excessive use of force, use of electric shock, and tranquilisers.

In May 2021, the Directorate of Immigration revoked housing and food allowances from around 20 men, mostly from Palestine, after they refused to undergo the COVID-19 testing required for their deportation. The Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board recently ruled the action as prohibited and the asylum seekers were again offered access to basic services. Lawyer Magnús Norðdahl, who represents a few of the men in the group, stated the Directorate acted “unlawfully and inhumanely,” and called on the institution to take responsibility and apologise for the action.

Icelandic authorities deport asylum seekers to Greece on the basis of the Dublin regulation. 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.

In 2018, the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board criticised the Directorate of Immigration’s procedures, stating there were “systemic deficiencies in the handling of cases” at the institution.

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