From Iceland — The Waiting Is The Worst For Asylum Seekers

The Waiting Is The Worst For Asylum Seekers

Published January 30, 2015

Nanna Árnadóttir
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Asylum seekers in Iceland struggle most with the uncertainty they experience while waiting for verdicts on whether they will be granted permission to stay, reports Vísir.

According to research conducted by Lilja Ingvarsson into the emotional well being of asylum seekers, subjects struggled with idleness – asylum seekers are not permitted to seek employment – and also with the stress of waiting for their application verdicts.

As reported, the Minister of the Interior appointed members to the Immigration Appeals Board (Kærunefnd útlendingamála) on Monday, despite the fact that it was established by law in May 2014. In the interim, asylum applicants awaiting verdicts were left unnotified while no board existed to process their appeals.

Earlier this week a Syrian asylum seeker – whose application is currently being processed at the Directorate of Immigration – turned a knife on himself and Björn Teitsson, the Icelandic Red Cross’ public relations manager, said that the incident indicates the pressure under which asylum applicants in Iceland live.

All the asylum seekers interviewed for Lilja’s research were men between the ages of 23-38 and hail from Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In addition to that she spoke to three individuals who work with asylum seekers to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the circumstances.

“All of them spoke of feeling idle,” said Lilja. “They wanted to work and contribute to society. They felt the wait was too long and spoke of the cost incurred by Icelandic society while they were not allowed to get jobs.”

The research also revealed that the lack of control of one’s own life was a stressor with asylum seekers.

“They felt time slip away from them and experienced a great deal of powerlessness,” said Lilja. “They struggled with [a lack of self agency], accepting housing, food and pocket money.”

Lilja’s results mirror results of similar studies conducted abroad and concluded that shortening the processing time for asylum seekers was important to prevent the harmful effects of a long period of uncertainty.

When Lilja conducted her research, her subjects had been waiting for verdicts on their applications for asylum for between 6-30 months.

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