Asylum applicants left unnotified while no board existed to process their appeals
On Monday, January 26, the Minister of the Interior appointed members to the Immigration Appeals Board (Kærunefnd útlendingamála), established by law in May 2014. The board was supposed to start its operations on January 1. The board’s Chair and its staff have, according to the Ministry’s spokesperson, already begun preparations, but no appealed cases could be actually processed by the board until, presumably, now, that it is fully peopled.
The board is chaired by Dr. Hjörtur Bragi Sverrisson, as announced in November 2014. The board’s other members are Professor Oddný Mjöll Arnardóttir and lawyer Anna Valbjörg Ólafsdóttir.
The waiting game
A Jewish citizen of Iraq, who earlier this winter went on hunger strike to protest the Directorate of Immigration’s refusal to process his asylum application, halted his strike to await the appeal’s verdict. The man has now waited for over three months. He says that his psychological condition has become critical, and feels betrayed by Icelandic authorities. It seems that authorities have not notified him, nor, presumably, others waiting for an appeal verdict, that the appeal process was not in place until this week.
The Ministry’s spokesperson, Jóhannes Tómasson, could not provide information on how many such appeals await processing by the board. The board’s chair, Hjörtur Bragi Sverrisson, could not be reached on Wednesday.
Whereas the Directorate of Immigration claims that “on average” its processing of applications “does not exceed 90 days”, the draft for a directive on the appeal board’s procedures does not state any explicit time limit for the processing of appeals. As of Wednesday, the ministry had not published the final version of the directive.
The Immigration Appeals Board is supposed to function as an “independent administrative board”. It was established through an amendment made in May 2014, to the 2002 Law on Foreigners. According to the amendment, the Interior Minister appoints the three members of the board. Before the establishment of the board, verdicts from the Directorate of Immigration could only be appealed to the Interior Ministry itself, which the Directorate belongs to.
During the legislative process, the Icelandic Red Cross criticised that members of the new, supposedly independent board, should also be appointed by the relevant minister him/herself, which the organisation stated would cast doubt on the board’s actual independence.
The board’s chair, Dr. Hjörtur Bragi Sverrisson, has worked within the human rights department of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) since 2001.
Board member Professor Oddný Mjöll specializes in international human rights law, constitutional human rights law, non-discrimination law and health law. The third member, Anna Valbjörg Ólafsdóttir, is listed among staff members of the Financial Ministry.