Asylum Seekers Sentenced To 30 Days - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Asylum Seekers Sentenced To 30 Days

Published January 19, 2016

Photos by
Natsha Nandabhiwat

Two asylum seekers were sentenced to 30 days in jail for using false passports, but there is a good chance the matter will be overturned.

A man from Sierra Leone and another man from Syria were both sentenced to 30 days in jail for attempting to use false passports. Both men, who are asylum seekers, were on their way to Toronto from Iceland earlier this month when they were stopped at Keflavík International Airport and taken into custody. Both have remained there ever since.

However, as Vísir points out, it is quite possible they will not serve this sentence in its entirety, due in large part to a Supreme Court ruling on a very similar case.

In the case in question, a Syrian refugee using an Albanian passport was also stopped, arrested, and charged with using a false passport. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the man should not be punished for this.

In point of fact, Article 31 of the Refugee Convention forbids the practice of arresting asylum seekers for arriving with false passports:

“The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”

Icelandic authorities have grown weary of arresting and jailing asylum seekers for false passports, too. As Vísir points out, the government has spent some 60 million ISK in processing and trying these cases, which even Director of the Icelandic Prison Service Páll Winkel has described as “ridiculous” and “unnecessary”.

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