Deported from Iceland Following Rejected Applications

Útlendingastofnun directorate of immigration iceland

Four Nigerian asylum seekers were deported from Iceland yesterday via Germany to Nigeria. Three of the deported individuals are female victims of human trafficking and have resided in Iceland for several years before their deportation yesterday. RÚV reports.

Appeal deportation on medical grounds

One of the Nigerian women deported yesterday included Blessing Uzoma Newton, who applied for a residence permit in Iceland in 2018 on the basis of human rights law. After their benefits were revoked following changes to Icelandic immigration law, the women had been without housing or financial support for nearly a year. Blessing, along with two other Nigerian women, was arrested on Friday, May 10 and held in the Hólmsheiði detention centre.

When she was taken custody, her doctor provided a medical certificate stating that her deportation could seriously threaten her life, as she suffers from an abdominal tumour. Blessing’s lawyer, Helgi Silva Þorsteinsson, attempted to appeal Blessing’s deportation on medical grounds. The appeal would have only applied to Blessing, and not the other Nigerian women.

deportations at keflavík internatioal airport
RÚV screenshot – protesters at Keflavík International.

The women were deported from Iceland last night via Keflavík International Airport, where the organisation No Borders Iceland protested the deportations.

Accompanied by doctor to Germany

According to information provided by authorities, the three women and one man were deported last night via a chartered flight operated by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

They are reported to have been flown initially to Frankfurt late last night, from where they were then transferred to Nigeria today, May 14. RÚV reports that the group was also accompanied by an Icelandic doctor.

On board the plane were other Nigerian deportees from Germany, Cyprus, and Austria.

 

 

 

Minister Reviews Children’s Pending Deportation

Deporting children is “not something that we want to stand for as a society,” Iceland’s Minister of Children’s Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason stated when asked about the case of two Palestinian children who are set to be deported from Iceland. The Directorate of Immigration plans to deport the two boys to Greece, but the Minister has asked to receive more information about their cases.

Cousins Samir (12) and Yazan (14), came to Iceland in April after a dangerous voyage and six months in a refugee camp in Greece. They were sent from Palestine around one year ago by their families along with their 30-year-old uncle in hopes of a better life. Upon arriving in Iceland, they were both placed with foster families, as authorities believed there were grounds to investigate whether they were victims of human trafficking, which turned out to not be the case.

The boys have been living with two separate, but related, Icelandic families and also have relatives here in the country who received protection several years ago and have adapted to life in Iceland. The boys’ immediate families live in Gaza, where they are now under constant threat due to Israel’s ongoing attacks.

Directorate of Immigration to deport boys

A little over a month ago, Sameer and Yazan received the news that Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration was not going to take their cases into substantive consideration as the boys had already received international protection in Greece. They were ordered to leave the country along with their uncle, who is their registered guardian. The ruling has been appealed.

Reports from Amnesty International and statements from the Icelandic Red Cross have condemned the living conditions faced by refugees in Greece. Refugees in the country have difficulty accessing healthcare and housing and face ill-treatment from law enforcement officials even in cases where they have been granted international protection.

Family’s neighbourhood in Gaza destroyed

The Gaza neighbourhood where the cousins’ families live was destroyed by air strikes around one week ago, and two days passed before they received news that their parents and siblings were alive. The two boys have expressed their desire to stay in Iceland. “Icelanders cannot stop this war, but what we can do for people is to ease their worries about being deported tomorrow or the next day, or next week. That they don’t also have to deal with that,” Yazan’s foster parent Hanna Símonardóttir told RÚV.

Minister of Children’s Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason stated that his ministry had requested information on the case, but did not want to comment further on it until he had reviewed that information. Nearly 10,000 petitioners are calling on Icelandic authorities to grant the boys, and all Palestinians in Iceland, protection.

Hussein Left Iceland with Family

directorate of immigration iceland

Hussein Hussein, an asylum seeker from Iraq who uses a wheelchair, decided to accompany his family back to Greece, Vísir reports. 

They left voluntarily for Greece on Saturday, December 2.

Hussein’s Stay in Iceland Extended, Family to be Deported Tomorrow

The European Court of Human Rights had previously ruled that his family may be deported from Iceland, but not Hussein.

Hussein has stated previously that he would not be able to live without his family in Iceland, as he relies on them for support and essential care. Upon the European Court of Human Rights ruling, he stated that he faced an impossible choice, as conditions in Greece are unfit for asylum seekers with disabilities.

Gerður Helgadóttir, a friend of the family, stated to Vísir: “He doesn’t speak anything except Arabic, so he needs to have Arabic speaking people around him. His situation here was just too unclear when he considered staying. His family is everything to him. They care for him, and he needs assistance all day long. It’s a horrible situation the family was placed in, and terrible to send his family away from him. I don’t know what kind of treatment this is for disabled people.”

Gerður reportedly spoke with the family since their arrival in Greece. She stated to Vísir that they are currently looking for accomodation there.

Gerður continued: “It sounds terrible […] They are short on money and this is a very bad situation for them. We are talking about people who were working in Iceland and could have easily taken care of themselves. It’s just so cruel, one really just doesn’t have the words.”

Hussein’s Stay in Iceland Extended, Family to be Deported Tomorrow

Útlendingastofnun directorate of immigration iceland

Following a decision from the European Court of Human Rights, the ban on deporting Iraqi asylum seeker Hussein Hussein has been extended. However, the same ban was not extended to his family, who are scheduled to be deported to Greece tomorrow, November 28. 

The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled against the deportation of Hussein, who uses a wheelchair. According to RÚV, his family, which includes his brother, mother, and two sisters, intends to cooperate with authorities and to leave “voluntarily.” RÚV reports that this decision was made following a message from the Directorate of Immigration, instructing the family to leave the country, either willingly or under police escort.

Refugee Man and Family Previously Deported Wins Case

This is not the first time Hussein and his family have come into national focus in Iceland. Authorities faced widespread critique last year when he was forcibly removed from his wheelchair during his deportation. He has since fought for his right to remain in Iceland alongside his family, claiming that conditions in Greece for asylum seekers with disabilities are especially dangerous.

Þórhildur Ósk Hagalín, a spokesperson for the Directorate of Immigration, stated that the family’s rejection was in line with procedure. She stated to RÚV: “In this case, the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board has ruled that these individuals must leave the country. The Directorate of Immigration, as a subordinate authority, cannot alter the decision of the board, and therefore, we have to adhere to that ruling.”

Essential care

Albert Björn Lúðvígsson, Hussein’s lawyer, stated to RÚV that Hussein’s needs were never formally assessed, and his health condition has only been minimally diagnosed. He stated that Hussein requires substantial assistance in daily life and that, until now, his family has been his primary caretaker.

Albert expressed concern that Hussein will remain here for a long time while the European Court of Human Rights addresses his case. A request for a review of the decision has been submitted, but it is unlikely that a conclusion will be reached before the intended departure date of the family, November 28.

Asked whether adequate care has been ensured for Hussein after his family leaves the country, Þórhildur stated that it is the responsibility of the Directorate of Labour to ensure that service. She continued: “There is an exception to this rule where it is allowed to consider the circumstances of the family as a whole. However, these measures are intended for spouses and children under eighteen. So, even though they are individuals bound by family ties, and one of them certainly needs ongoing care, that alone is not sufficient to delay the decision.”

Regarding the role of the Directorate of Labour in providing asylum seekers with services, Þórhildur also stated: “This should be done in line with their service needs. So, as soon as people arrive in the country, an assessment needs to be made regarding the service they require. In other words, when people seek assistance from the authorities, an assessment of their service needs should be conducted.”

Inhumane treatment

The decision to extend Hussein’s deportation ban and not his family’s has occasioned critique.

One critic is Árni Múli Jónasson, the director of the Disability Alliance, who has called the treatment of Hussein “inhumane.”

“It’s so evident that Hussein, a disabled individual, is heavily reliant on various forms of support from his family, ” Árni stated to RÚV.  “Socially, emotionally, physically—to separate the family in this way is tremendously inhumane towards him, and that’s what we are particularly concerned about at the Disability Rights Association. We are of the opinion that if this proceeds as it is, it’s in complete contradiction to what the government states in its policy declaration, that humanity should be the guiding light in these matters. ”

Árni continued: “In our view, there’s no doubt that human rights are being violated here. This is not in line with the obligations resting on the Icelandic state according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So, we implore the authorities not to let this injustice proceed.”

Welfare Committee Rejects Request for PM to Appear

refugee protest austurvöllur

The majority of the Welfare Committee has rejected the request for the Prime Minister to be summoned before the committee to discuss the provision of services to asylum seekers, as it does not fall under the Prime Minister’s purview. RÚV reports.

New immigration laws came into effect in July, which, among other things, involve discontinuing services for asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. Dozens of individuals have received such notifications, and there is a debate about whether the state or local authorities bear responsibility for these individuals.

Read more: Authorities Dispute Over Asylum Seekers in Iceland

The minority in the Welfare Committee has called for an open committee meeting, inviting the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Social Affairs, and the Prime Minister to attend. However, the majority refuses to summon the Prime Minister before the committee, with the committee’s chair, Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, stating that there are no grounds for it, as the matter falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Social Affairs and the Minister of Justice. Members of the Pirate Party have objected to this interpretation, with Pirate MP Arndís Anna K. Gunnarsdóttir pointing out that the Prime Minister has a coordinating role in the government that is relevant to the situation at hand. According to the MP, due to the current disagreement that exists regarding the interpretation of the law, it is crucial to summon the Prime Minister before the committee.

asylum seekers iceland
Protest on Austurvöllur, October 9. Golli.

The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Social Affairs have also discussed recently whether “closed housing facilities,” can be used in the case of rejected asylum applications. Such facilities would restrict the movement of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected prior to their deportation from the country.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, stated to RÚV that closed housing facilities cannot solve the problem that has arisen due to people who have received a final denial of international protection: “Regardless of what we may think of closed housing facilities, they are simply not a viable solution because they have no legal basis, and they cannot, of course, address the problem faced by people who have been expelled from the service. It is just a fact that these people have no place to seek protection. I am just ensuring assistance to these people; I took the initiative, and others have not done so.”

Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, the Minister of Justice, has however stated: “I see no other solution than to have closed housing facilities. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need what the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment is suggesting. Such people need to leave the country, and it’s remarkable that solutions are being proposed for people who are breaking the law.”

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In Focus: Asylum Seeker Evictions

asylum iceland

New legislation on immigration passed in Iceland’s Parliament last spring states that asylum seekers whose asylum applications have received a final rejection will be stripped of essential services unless they consent to deportation. As a result, dozens of asylum seekers unable to leave the country for reasons personal or political are being stripped of housing […]

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Debate Whether State or Municipalities Responsible for Rejected Applications

Guðrún hafsteinsdóttir

A deadlock has arisen in the cases of a group of applicants for international protection under the new immigration laws. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has publicly called for the matter to be clarified, with Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir stating that the law is quite clear: municipalities bear no responsibility for refugees and asylum seekers. RÚV reports.

Normally, individuals who have received a final rejection for protection have 30 days to leave the country. At the end of that period, they lose all services. But recently, a debate has begun centred around who should take responsible for this group of people, whether the municipalities or the state.

A need for clarity

The Minister of Social Affairs has recently stated that the municipalities should handle this group, but the municipalities argue that it’s the responsibility of the state. This debate has caused Prime Minister Katrín to weigh in on the matter, stating “Naturally, it cannot be expected that full services will be provided here when the administrative process in the protection system is completed, and the denial does not occur at just one but two administrative levels.”

The Prime Minister has acknowledged that there is a disagreement about the interpretation of the laws, and it’s important to resolve it. The matter was discussed at a cabinet meeting this morning.

The current debate is part of a long-standing discussion about the treatment and legal rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Iceland. Some in government have also looked to Nordic peers for possible solutions. Some Nordic countries limit services in stages in so-called departure facilities. On such facilities, Katrín stated: “It’s not an idea that I necessarily find appealing, but it’s evident that an explanation is needed about what comes next.”

Asylum seekers “responsible for themselves”

However, Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, the Minister of Justice, has stated that the matter is quite clear legally. She says that the ultimate responsibility lies with the individuals who have come to this country and applied for protection.

“This group of people has undergone a two-stage administrative process, involving the Immigration Agency and the Immigration Appeals Board. The conditions that have been set as a basis have not been met,” she stated recently. “Their cases have been concluded, and a decision has been reached. The decision is that these individuals have not been granted protection in Iceland. Therefore, they cannot stay, and they should leave the country.

The Ministry of Justice believes furthermore that municipalities are not responsible for this group: “I emphasize that if municipalities wish to have a different approach, they can do so. The laws are clear, however. People must leave the country 30 days after receiving a rejection for protection.”

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Icelandic State Pays Damages to Pregnant Woman Who Was Deported

The Icelandic state has paid damages to an Albanian asylum seeker who was deported from the country in her ninth month of pregnancy. The woman was deported in November 2019, then 26 years old, along with her husband and two-year-old son despite having a medical certificate stating that “a long flight would be difficult for her.” The woman’s lawyer told Vísir her client is relieved at the outcome and hopes it will prevent the Icelandic state from putting other women’s health and safety at risk, as well as that of their unborn children.

Doctor broke the law in issuing certificate

Despite having a certificate from the National University Hospital stating she had back problems and that a long flight would be difficult for her, the woman was deported on the basis of a second medical certificate procured by police. The woman asserts that she was never examined by the doctor who signed this second certificate.

The deportation was protested at the time it occurred, with the Directorate of Health launching an investigation into the deportation procedure to determine whether it violated health regulations. The Directorate of Health eventually ruled that the doctor who signed the second certificate broke laws applying to healthcare workers and patient rights.

State acknowledges liability

Claudia Ashanie Wilson, the woman’s lawyer, confirmed that the Icelandic state had recognised its liability in the case. She spoke with her client two days ago, and says the woman was relieved that the Icelandic state had acknowledged that it had violated her rights in deporting her when she was nearly 36 weeks pregnant. She declined to state the amount that was paid to the woman.

“This incident will hopefully make the Icelandic authorities reflect and ensure the humane treatment of those individuals who apply for international protection here in Iceland. We seem to forget sometimes that these are people, individuals like us, who are in great need,” Claudia stated.

Police Reject Allegations Of Excessive Force in Asylee Arrest

asylum seeker arrest refugees in iceland

The office of the National Commissioner of Police rejects the allegations that police used excessive force when arresting two men, both asylum seekers from Palestine, on Tuesday, Vísir reports.

The incident was brought to the public’s attention by the activist group Refugees in Iceland and pictures published by Vísir confirmed that one of the men, who was hospitalized after the incident, sustained injuries to his head and body. The National Commissioner had not previously issued an official statement on the incident but did so on Thursday evening.

See Also: Hospitalised for Injuries Sustained in Arrest

Both men have now been deported and sent back to Greece.

Witnesses assert that police used violent force against the men, who had been called to the Directorate of Immigration in Hafnarfjörður to pick up vaccination certificates. They also say that police used a taser on them. The National Commissioner’s Office stated on Wednesday that Icelandic police do not use tasers under any circumstances. Refugees in Iceland maintain that a video taken by a witness on their phone was deleted by police. Police were, however, wearing body cameras at the time and the arrest was also captured by security cameras in the building.

“A preliminary examination of footage of the incident has been carried out by this office and does not indicate that any unnecessary or excessive force was used given the circumstances that were created at the scene,” read the police statement. The statement also asserted that police only resort to the use of force when the situation urgently requires it, for instance, to ensure the safety of the person being arrested or others.

“In light of numerous inquiries, the office [of the National Commissioner of Police] can confirm that the individuals in question have left the country, in accordance with the decision of the relevant authorities regarding the dismissal [of their asylum applications].”

The incident will be referred to a police oversight committee.

 

Hospitalised for Injuries Sustained in Arrest

A Palestinian asylum seeker was hospitalised on Tuesday with injuries sustained when he was arrested by police at a Directorate of Immigration office, Vísir reports. Pictures in Vísir’s possession confirm the man sustained injuries to his head and body as well as showing evidence that he was injected twice. A second Palestinian asylum seeker arrested at the scene has reportedly been deported from the country.

The arrest was first reported on by activist group Refugees in Iceland. The two men went to the Hafnarfjörður office after they were called in to pick up vaccination certificates and were arrested shortly after their arrival. At least one witness stated that police used excessive force in the arrest and Refugees in Iceland stated that police deleted video footage recorded by a witness on their phone.

Read More: Asylum Seekers Arrested at Immgration Office

Mannlíf interviewed Shoukri Abolebda, the asylum seeker who was taken to emergency. He showed the outlet medical records from multiple countries, including Iceland, confirming that he has epileptic seizures due to a head injury sustained in childhood. The Directorate of Immigration was aware of his medical condition when the arrest, in which he sustained further head injuries, took place.

The Police Commissioner’s Chief Legal Office Helgi Valberg Jensson would not comment on the case when contacted by Vísir neither to confirm the deportation reported yesterday not whether Shoukri would be deported today. The case will be referred to a police supervision committee, but Helgi stated there was as of yet no indication police used excessive force during the arrest. He confirmed that the police were wearing body cameras during the arrest and that the incident was also captured by the building’s surveillance cameras.