Iceland Breaking International Refugee Law - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland Breaking International Refugee Law

Published October 13, 2013

Icelandic authorities are breaking the law by imprisoning asylum seekers who arrive with falsified or expired documents, a UN official says.
Pia Prytz Phiri, the Baltic and Nordic Regional Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), recently visited Iceland to assess the conditions asylum seekers live under. It is common practice for refugees, if found to be with forged or expired passports, to be immediately arrested and jailed upon arrival in Iceland.
This, Pia told DV, is a violation of international law.
“I want to make it very clear that [the UNHCR] considers this unjustifiable,” she said. “It is plainly stated that you cannot punish refugees for illegally entering a country.”
Here she specifically cites Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, which states the following:

“The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”

Despite this, asylum seekers in Iceland are regularly arrested for false papers, taken before a judge, and usually sentenced to 30 days in jail.

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