The Immigration Appeals Board has not shortened the waiting period for asylum seekers, and has been granted increased funding to rectify this.
Sources close to Stundin report that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with how the board has failed to live up to expectations. Despite being legally formed in May 2014, the board itself was not assembled until last January, and was created with the purpose of shortening waiting times for processing asylum seeker applications to 90 days, in addition to giving immigrants and asylum seekers a body to whom they could appeal deportations.
Waiting periods have weighed heavily on asylum seekers. Last month, an asylum seeker who was made to wait without an answer well beyond the 90-day period attempted to set himself on fire outside the offices of the Icelandic Red Cross.
The Directorate of Immigration argues that the failure of the board to meet their goal has been due to an increase in asylum seeker applications. During the first eight months of this year, they have received 154 applications for asylum, up from 93 during the first eight months of 2014. 49 of this year’s applications were filed in August alone.
In order to meet the increased demand, 175 million ISK will go towards asylum seeker matters in the 2016 budget. 25 million ISK will also be budgeted to the Immigration Appeals Board for a single year, in order to continue to retain staff who had been temporarily hired to meet the increased workload.
Of the applications submitted so far this year, 50 people have been granted asylum. Most who are denied asylum are deported on the basis of the Dublin Regulation, which gives member states the right – although not the obligation – to deport asylum seekers back to their previous point of departure. As there are no direct flights from war-torn areas to Iceland, this regulation is often employed when denying asylum applications. However, use of the regulation has faced criticism across Europe, and in Iceland as well. Germany, for one, has stopped applying the regulation to Syrian refugees.
Bear in mind that the Immigration Appeals Board deals with applications for asylum – not with refugees expressly invited by the government to live in Iceland.