The Directorate of Immigration says it will stop giving emergency work permits to asylum seekers, but cite no exact figures for what conditions have led to the change.
Immigration authorities are given the discretion to issue temporary, emergency work permits to asylum seekers. That practice will be no more, Vísir reports, as director of the Directorate of Immigration Kristín Völundardóttir says it would be “irresponsible” to continue the practice.
Kristín – whose professional background in Iceland is as a police chief – told reporters that while refugees had been granted temporary work and residence permits when there was a shortage of labour in the country’s job market, the labour market is no longer what it was before the crash. Furthermore, she sees no reason to grant permits to people who will in all likelihood be deported from the country anyway.
However, it should be noted that Iceland’s current unemployment rate is a remarkably low 5% and falling. Also, these temporary work permits for refugees are specifically for jobs no Icelander wants or can perform and, in some cases, refugees have had to wait for months or even years for their cases to be processed by the overworked and understaffed directorate. In addition, it is the Directorate of Immigration that decides which asylum seekers will be allowed to stay in the country, and who will be deported.
Traditionally, Iceland has cited the Dublin Regulation, which grants authorities the right – but not the obligation – to deport asylum seekers back to their previous point of departure. As there are no direct flights from repressive, war-torn countries to Iceland, the vast majority who seek asylum here can and usually are deported – by the same authorities who are now revoking temporary work permits for asylum seekers on the grounds that these refugees may be deported.
Iceland’s refugee policy has been receiving increasingly more international attention. In a statement to the press, Luke Richardson – the producer of Occupy Wall Street Radio on WBAI NYC – told reporters that he interviewed MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, human rights lawyer Katrín Oddsdóttir, and a few refugees living in asylum camps in Iceland.
“Since the popular image of Iceland is a democratic country that respects human rights and dignity,” the statement says in part, “We realized that this issue would not get attention in the international media, or international community. We thought that there are contradictions that should be highlighted in this supposed cradle of democracy.”
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