A number of changes to how asylum seeker applications are processed were approved by parliament last week.
MBL reports that instead of asylum seeker applications being processed by either the Ministry of the Interior or the Directorate of Immigration, a special three-person committee will take on the task. The committee members will be appointed by the ministry, to serve for five years at a time.
The committee chairperson will have to fit the same requirements as that of a district court judge. The other two committee members will consist of one person from the Icelandic Human Rights Office, with a specialisation in residence permits for foreigners, and one person from the University of Iceland Human Rights Office, with a specialisation in refugee matters and international law in that field.
The changes were motivated, in part, by criticisms from both within Iceland and abroad that Iceland’s current asylum seeker case processing is not impartial enough. Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir told parliament she also hopes the changes will shorten the waiting period many asylum seekers have had to endure before receiving an official response to their applications, as well as reduce the costs to the state for the care and upkeep of asylum seekers awaiting approval or deportation.