Like many members of the press, I have been following and reporting on the case of Tony Omos, an asylum seeker from Nigeria who was, today, put on a plane for Switzerland, from where he will most likely be on his way back to Nigeria. He will be leaving behind Evelyn Glory Joseph, who is expected to give birth to his child in January.
In many ways, Tony’s case is not unusual. Iceland almost never accepts asylum seekers. And like most asylum seekers in Iceland, Tony’s application processing lasted far longer than Article 19 of Dublin Regulation II allows – in his case, 22 months, well past the legal limit of one year. Like many asylum seekers to Iceland, Tony was also deported in contravention of Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which legally requires state actors to “ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will” unless “such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.” Iceland’s a signatory to both those legal agreements, by the way.
What does make Tony’s case unique is that a memo – which all evidence suggests came from your ministry – impugned the reputation of Tony Omos, with claims about his paternity and his involvement in human trafficking – accusations which proved to be false and misleading.
I moved to this country 14 years ago and was lucky enough to be granted citizenship in 2007. I have long dealt with both immigration institutions and immigration legislation. I have witnessed some pretty shoddy treatment of people simply trying to make a life for themselves in this country. This memo, though, I think is probably the most repugnant act from an Icelandic government institution against an asylum seeker that I have ever had the displeasure of seeing.
Not helping, by the by, is how you’ve been handling this situation. You have yet to provide any evidence that you are taking the matter seriously. You stood before parliament and implied that perhaps other institutions could have been the source of the leak, when there is no evidence to suggest this, and every indication points right to your ministry.
You and your staff have avoided answering questions from attorneys or the press. In parliament, you are obliged to answer questions posed to you. But you owe not just your colleagues but all of us an explanation for how this happened, why it happened, and what is going to be done to prevent this from ever happening again.
Lastly, I think the only decent thing for you to do is bring Tony back to Iceland, let his family stay, and then resign. Under your watch, your ministry committed a gross breach of confidentiality, slandered the reputation of an innocent man, and have displayed no willingness to accept any responsibility. Accept responsibility now, resign, and help restore what little faith is left in an institution whose public trust has already suffered greatly under your administration.