Friends of Uhunoma Osayomore, a 21-year-old man from Nigeria, delivered a petition signed by over 45,000 to Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir yesterday, asking them to grant international asylum or a humanitarian visa in Iceland. According to a RÚV report, His lawyer states that when his application was denied, neither the Directorate of Immigration nor The Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board took into consideration the fact that Uhunoma was the victim of human trafficking.
Áslaug Arna accepted the signatures and stated that while ministers don’t interfere in individual cases, they’re always looking for ways to improve the system. She added that Iceland accepted more refugees than the countries around us. Friends of Uhunoma delivered the signatures to the ministers, stating that he hoped they would be well received and that the case might be reopened. When the signatures were delivered, Katrín stated: “These are many signatures and we’ll look into it.”
Uhunoma’s lawyer has stated that the Directorate of Immigration and the appellatory committee had overlooked the fact that he was the victim of human trafficking, both in his home country and on his way to Iceland. They had previously ruled that Uhunoma could not prove that he would be persecuted if he returned to Nigeria.
Uhunoma’s story is a tragic one. The petition states that he was 16 when he left his home in Nigeria after his mother was murdered by his father and his younger sister died in an accident. Things went from bad to worse when he was caught by a human trafficker in Lagos, where he witnessed murders, was kept captive in a barn and suffered repeated sexual violence. For three years, he lived in refugee housing in Italy.
After a year in Iceland, Uhunoma has gained a new life and a loving family and friends. He has a home with an Icelandic family of 6. In the petition, Uhunoma’s friends state that “A temporary work permit was applied for Uhunoma, which was rejected, although he has a job waiting as soon as a permit is obtained for him to work in this country. Uhunoma needs no assistance from the Icelandic state and has only one wish: to live a life devoid of fear as a legal citizen of Iceland with his Icelandic family and friends.”
The petition for Uhunoma’s plight was started less than two weeks ago and has reached more than 46,000 signatures at the time of writing. His friends stated that bringing his case to the media wasn’t an ideal situation but the last resort. In the recent past, such cases have periodically gained media attention and public support. While Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir has repeatedly stated that ministers can’t interfere with individual cases, high-profile cases have sometimes resulted in institutions reconsidering earlier decisions.