Despite Icelandic law guaranteeing the right to the country’s immigrants, not all public offices offer an interpreter, and some go so far as to deny the service.
Interpreters and councilors for immigrants that Vísir spoke with confirmed that they have received numerous reports that sometimes the children of immigrants are used as informal “interpreters” for their parents, sometimes in sensitive medical or legal meetings.
Margrét Steinarsdóttir, the managing director of the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, said immigrants should be “offered interpreters, and shouldn’t have to seek them out. There, the government isn’t living up to its obligations, and can lead to human rights being broken,” citing a specific case where a mother signed over custody of her child at the county office, because she did not understand what was being explained to her.
Margrét added that some offices, after exhausting the money set aside for interpreters, have simply stopped offering the service. “Then funding needs to be increased and earmarked for interpreter services, or else public offices are compelled to break the law. Furthermore, professionals needs to be informed of their obligation to provide the service when the law requires.”
By Icelandic law, immigrants have the right to an interpreter in the health care field, in legal proceedings, in the school and social system, and in public insurance and health insurance matters. For more information, we encourage you to visit the city page offering services for immigrants in many languages.