From Iceland — Bishop Calls On Gov't To Show Compassion For Asylum Seekers; Hunger Strike Begins

Bishop Calls On Gov’t To Show Compassion For Asylum Seekers; Hunger Strike Begins

Published July 1, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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An Iraqi asylum seeker is now on his third day of a hunger strike. Meanwhile, the Bishop of Iceland is calling for more compassion towards asylum seekers.

Raisan Shihmani, an asylum seeker who fled Iraq in September 2015 and has been in Iceland for seven months now, told The Grapvine he recently received notice that he will be deported to Norway on the grounds of the Dublin Regulation. His friends are amongst the Iraqi asylum seekers already deported to Norway, where they are currently sitting in jail, from where they will in all likelihood be sent to Iraq.

In response, he is on his third day of a hunger strike, not just in protest of his own slated deportation, but of all deportations in general. However, he is currently staying at one of the assigned shelters for asylum seekers, which has security guards in place to block any volunteers who might be able to supervise the state of his health. Further complicating matters is the fact that asylum seekers more often than not have restricted and complicated access to health care, as emergency care worker Guðrún Björnsdóttir attested from her personal experience working in emergency rooms in Iceland.

“Unlike free people in this country, [asylum seekers] have to go through a strict access process to come to me,” she writes in part, adding that when asylum seekers complain of medical ailments to security staff, they are often disbelieved, further delaying crucial medical attention.

In related news, Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has expressed her shock and dismay that police and immigration officials do not respect the concept of church sanctuary, having seized asylum seekers by force from Laugarneskirkja church earlier this week.

“I find this unacceptable,” she told reporters. “It’s not like the church is sheltering criminals or fighting against law and order. But if the regulations are inhumane, attention needs to be drawn to it and more compassion needs to be encouraged. The church must always help people in need. This is the Christian faith in practice and the love that Christ offers. The church acts in accordance with the love that it provides. We’re not just stepping up to the pulpit on Sundays; we defend the human rights of all people, wherever they were born.”

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