Statistics from prison officials show that refugees who arrive in Iceland are often charged with carrying false and forged passports and jailed – despite this being a violation of international law.
DV reports that, according to data from prison officials, some 166 foreigners have been given jail sentences for false or forged passports since 2006. The vast majority of these are from outside of Europe; most typically, from the Middle East and Africa.
As data from the Directorate of Immigration confirms that most asylum seekers to Iceland are from these regions, an undetermined number of those jailed are likely asylum seekers. Whether they serve any jail time or not, any asylum seeker arriving in Iceland with a false or forged passport is charged and taken into custody.
The problem is this happens to be against the law. As Article 31 of the Refugee Convention states:
“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.”
The typical sentence for a conviction of false or forged papers is 30 days in jail, and legal fees from 50,000 to 125,000 ISK. It should also be mentioned that, even in the event that an asylum seeker applies for citizenship, the charge on their criminal record can actually prevent citizenship from happening.
Asylum seeker matters have been on many Icelanders’ minds lately, as Interior Minister Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir is currently embroiled in a scandal, wherein it appears her ministry leaked confidential – and later proved false – information about an asylum seeker avoiding deportation.