Immigration Office Accused of Racism - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Immigration Office Accused of Racism

Published March 31, 2009

A group of protestors representing and including asylum seekers in
Iceland have accused the Office of Immigration of being “built on a
racist and fascist foundation”.
The group of 35 gave Minister of Justice Ragna Arnadóttir a written statement, criticizing the Office of Immigration’s policies with regards to asylum seekers in Iceland. They have specifically put empahsis on the recent decision to send many of these refugees to Greece – a move to which the United Nations has objected. Arnadóttir said she would re-examine the case.
The Dublin Accord was created as a way of allowing refugees to move more freely within the Schengen area” reads the statement in part “Not as a means of conveniently doing away with people, and sending them out of the country. The new government needs to be built on human rights.” This refers to Iceland’s frequent citing of a clause in the Dublin Accord – that refugees can be sent back to the location where their previous visa was issued – as a reason for rejecting the vast majority of refugees and simply sending them back to their last point of departure before arriving in Iceland.
The clause has proved problematic, as while it gives the government the freedom to do this, it does not oblige the government to do this. At the same time, there are seldom direct flights from war-torn areas to Iceland – asylum seekers in Iceland have almost always stopped someplace before arriving here. Yet the Office of Immigration has often used this catch-22 as a means of denying asylum seekers approval.
The most famous example would be the case of Paul Ramses, a Kenyan who sought asylum in Iceland but was sent to Italy, as that was the country of origin of his last visa. The deportation gained national attention, as he was separated from his wife and infant child still in Iceland. The Ministry of Justice reviewed the case at the behest of a national outcry, and he was brought back to Iceland.

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