From Iceland — Both Albanian Families Will Receive Icelandic Citizenship

Both Albanian Families Will Receive Icelandic Citizenship

Published December 19, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Both Albanian families who were deported last week will receive Icelandic citizenship. They are now looking forward to coming back to Iceland to start a new life, and get their children the urgent medical care they need.

RÚV reports that the parliamentary Judicial Affairs and Education Committee has passed a resolution recommending that both the Albanian families that were deported from Iceland last week be granted citizenship. As these committee recommendations are rarely, if ever, challenged, the families in question are as good as approved for Icelandic citizenship.

(The Kepaj family learn they have been awarded citizenship over Skype. Source: RÚV)

When the Kepaj family were told of the news over Skype, Xhulia Kepaj was overcome with joy, saying, “This is the best Christmas gift [our son] Kevi has ever received.”

“I want to thank the nation, the reporters, everyone,” Kastriot Kepaj added. “And special thanks to my friend Hermann. This is indescribable.”

Hermann Ragnarsson, an Icelander who has helped the family gather the necessary documentation to apply for citizenship and fought for their cause, told reporters that the decision was “magnificent news”.

Kevi Kepaj, who has cystic fibrosis, cannot get the medical attention he desperately needs in Albania, which is one of the reasons the family originally sought asylum in Iceland.

However, the families’ applications for asylum were rejected on the grounds that Albania is not a war-torn country. While the family originally appealed their case to the Immigration Appeals Board, Directorate of Immigration Director Kristín Völundardóttir – who has in the past compared asylum seekers to tourists looking for free lodging and food – told RÚV that the family withdrew their appeal and asked to be deported. Be that as it may, Vísir reported that the family only made this decision after they were told that their one-year-old son will not be receiving the medical attention he needs here in Iceland.

Kristín would later discuss the case in an interview with RÚV, saying that both families were deported on the grounds that the families could just as easily receive adequate health care in Albania. At the same time, she also said she did not know if the Directorate had assessed whether or not the children in question could actually receive health care.

This lack of attention to detail has prompted the Parliamentary Ombudsman to demand an explanation as to how, or even if, their cases were processed. An Icelandic doctor has already criticised the deportation decision, likening it to a death sentence for the children in question. The Director has until January 15 to respond to the Ombudsman’s letter.

The deportation also sparked broader criticism in the general public, with many people pointing out at that Article 12 f. of the Act on Foreigners allows for granting asylum for humanitarian reasons – a move the Directorate of Immigration could have made, but chose not to.

No final date has been set for when these families will be returning to Iceland, but as both families have children in need of medical care that they cannot get in Albania, it is expected that they will be returning soon.

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