“Out with the Directorate of Immigration!” This was the chant of protesters who gathered in Reykjavík’s Parliament Square yesterday and marched to the police station on Hverfisgata. The protest was organised in response to the arrest of two asylum seekers in the directorate’s offices last week that left one of the arrested men in hospital. The director of Solaris, an Icelandic aid organisation for refugees and asylum seekers, says the sooner the directorate is dismantled, the better.
“These protests come in the wake of the events we witnessed this past week, when two applicants for international protection are lured to the premises of the Directorate of Immigration on false pretences, where they are deprived of their liberty and subjected to great duress and violence and arrested and deported from the country without notice. These are actions that we have not witnessed before and a sign of increased severity on the part of the authorities towards refugees,” Sema Erla Serdar, Solaris’ director, told mbl.is.
Sema says protesters came together yesterday to show solidarity with refugees and send a message to Icelandic authorities that inhumane policy will not be tolerated. “We see it repeatedly and in fact always that the public’s stance towards refugees is very different from the government’s and there is usually a strong consensus to do better in that regard. I am convinced that the public does not support this policy that we are seeing.”
In Sema’s opinion, the Directorate of Immigration does more harm than good. It should be dismantled and reconstructed on a new foundation, with humanity and respect for people as its guiding principle. “There certainly needs to be some framework around refugee’s issues, whether that’s a special ministry or institution or something like that, that would then be part of the reconstruction. The Directorate of Immigration in its current form, which is certainly built on a dubious foundation, is simply obsolete, the directorate is doing more harm than good and it simply needs to be closed down, and the sooner the better.”