Iceland Should Do More To Fight Racism, Says Report

21.2.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
A new report from the Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission (ECRI) says that Iceland should be doing more to combat discrimination, in part by granting permission for Muslims to build a mosque and by filling in gaps in current immigration legislation.

The report also believes that the law should include a "provision that expressly considers the racist motivation of an offence as a specific aggravating circumstance."

Some key elements from the report include:
Iceland has not established a specialised body to combat racism and discrimination based on “race”, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin. The Multicultural and Information Centre, which is now responsible for providing assistance and services to immigrants, is located in the extreme north-west of the country; this means that most immigrants no longer have easy access to specialised support services.

Changes to the Icelandic Nationality Act mean that the repeated commission of petty offences for which a fine is prescribed can definitively exclude a person from obtaining Icelandic citizenship. While the conditions for citizenship now also include passing Icelandic language tests, funding for language classes for foreigners has been cut.

The media frequently disclose the citizenship or ethnic origin of persons suspected of criminal activity although it bears no relevance to the case. One television channel and some Internet sites engage in hate speech against Muslims. The Muslim communities in Iceland still do not have permission to build mosques in which to worship, despite one application pending for more than 12 years.

Pupils of immigrant background have a significantly higher drop out rate from secondary school than Icelandic pupils.

Asylum seekers still have no possibility to appeal to an independent and impartial judicial mechanism empowered to consider the merits of the case. Not all children in the asylum procedure have access to compulsory school education.

There is still no mechanism for the investigation of allegations of police misconduct which is independent of the police and prosecution authorities.
ECRI publishes a report each year on the progress different European countries are making when it comes to fighting racism. Iceland's full report can be read here.

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