From Iceland — In Limbo

In Limbo

Published May 11, 2009

In Limbo

“It is better that I kill myself than to be sent back and be killed by them”

Last September, the Grapevine reported on the situation of asylum seekers living in the Fit Hostel in Njarðvík. At that time, their living quarters had just been raided by 58 police officers, and their private property and money was confiscated. Matters have not since improved, as evidenced by a letter published in the previous issue of the Grapevine from Nour Al-din Alazzawi, a 19-year old Iraqi refugee fighting his looming deportation. Numerous refugees continue to reside in the Fit Hostel for months, even years, at a time awaiting decisions to be made regarding their residence statuses.

The long waiting periods and lack of communication from Icelandic authorities has prompted some sans-papiers to resort to hunger strikes. “It is better that I kill myself than to be sent back and be killed by them,” says a 50-year old refugee from Iran who commenced a strike after four years in the Njarðvík hostel. Twenty-eight days into the strike authorities issued the refugee a 6-month work permit. Taking the same route, two refugees have committed suicide upon learning of their deportation and another, a 30-year old Algerian, was given a statement to sign after ten days without food, waiving medical aid should he fall unconscious. He continues to strike; it is not known if the document was signed.

While residing at Fit Hostel, the refugees, most of who were apprehended with false passports, are provided with food and a 2500 ISK per week stipend. This is Iceland’s effort in sharing the burden of asylum seekers that often flock to Southern European nations, which they agreed to do by signing the Dublin Accord in 2003. Since 1990, Icelandic authorities have only granted one person (out of 600) refugee status. This is the lowest percentage (0.26%) to be found among neighbouring countries.

More on the plight of asylum seekers in Iceland will be available in the next issue of the Grapevine.

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