The Directorate of Immigration admits that refugees wait far longer than they should have to for the processing of their cases, but that the office is overworked and understaffed.
By international law, an asylum seeker has the right to have their case processed within 6 months. However, Vísir reports, the wait in Iceland is, on average, 15 months.
Kristín Völdundardóttir, who heads the Directorate of Immigration, told reporters that there are 86 asylum seekers in Iceland waiting for their cases to be processed. Most of them are waiting at Fit Hostel in Keflavík, without the right to work, and it is not unheard of that some asylum seekers wait many years.
The long waiting periods can have a negative effect on the asylum seekers. The isolation inflicts a psychological toll, apart from the fact that being unable to work, the waiting period also hampers the integration process. Caring for asylum seekers is not inexpensive, either – the state spends 7,155 ISK per asylum seeker per day, totaling 10.3 million ISK per year.
While Kristín is aware of the long waiting periods, she contends her office is simply overwhelmed by applications for asylum and cannot process them all in a short amount of time. She wants to be able to hire more lawyers to work at the office, saying that with each lawyer, the waiting period for Iceland’s asylum seekers could decrease by up to 30%.