Ekki Fleiri Brottvísanir (“No More Deportations”) told Grapevine that Iceland could and should go a lot further where asylum seekers’ rights are concerned.
Iceland has been making international headlines for a recent grassroots movement to take in more asylum seekers than the government originally intended. This groundswell of support has pressured the government to change their tune, and Ekki Fleiri Brottvísanir (EFB) want to see them go further.
Grapevine spoke with Benjamín Julian, a member of EFB, who told us that Iceland should stop using the Dublin Regulation – a European law that gives signatory nations the right to deport asylum seekers back to their previous point of departure. The law is a controversial one, as it has created bottlenecks at asylum seeker entry points. Most recently, Germany opted to stop using the regulation against Syrian refugees.
Grapevine: Germany has already decided to stop applying the Dublin Regulation to Syrian refugees. Might be an obvious question, but why should Iceland do the same?
Benjamín: Human rights organizations all over the world, along with common sense, have pointed out that the regulation keeps refugees on Europe’s borders. We should be allowing them to move around, which will naturally reduce their concentration in Greece, Malta, Italy, Calais and so on. We’d also stop breaking their freedom of travel in the bargain. Additionally, very few refugees get here without having been caught in another country by the Dublin Regulation. Thus we end up deporting almost everyone that applies for asylum here. That’s unfair and ridiculous. People are prepared to help refugees, as we’ve seen in recent days, so the authorities should just let them stay here.
Grapevine: So EFB naturally doesn’t think dropping the Dublin Regulation should be done solely when it comes to Syrian asylum seekers, but when it comes to all asylum seekers?
Benjamín: We have from the beginning opposed all deportations – hence the name. The Dublin Regulation is, as I’ve said, the main reason Iceland deports refugees, so we’re naturally vehemently opposed to it. Syrians are the largest group entering Europe these days, so we’re putting emphasis on allowing them to stay.
Grapevine: What do you think is being done right where the current grassroots movement to help refugees is concerned, and what is lacking in Iceland’s response, in particular where the government is concerned?
Benjamín: The movement in the last few days is very moving. What it’s missing is that the problems are not all abroad, the problems are not all in getting people here. What Iceland’s authorities have been doing for years and years is deporting people in dire circumstances. The movement should focus on this as well. It’s good to see people are prepared to help in case refugees should be brought here. But we should also stop them from being thrown out again – as they are, thanks to the policies of the Interior Ministry and the Directorate of Immigration.
The government’s focus at the moment is on hand-picking a few refugees, securing for all of them full service before they arrive. This obviously hampers relief efforts. The government should put its emphasis on getting people here first. The solidarity movement is, as we can clearly see, strong and willing to take it from there.