From Iceland — Asylum Seekers Subjected To Possibly Illegal Restriction Of Movement

Asylum Seekers Subjected To Possibly Illegal Restriction Of Movement

Published August 5, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Asylum seekers at the Arnarholt shelter have their movements restricted in a manner that might violate Icelandic law. It has also come to light that the original intent of the shelter – which included Icelandic language classes and other activities for asylum seekers – were never put into practice.

Stundin reports that residents of the Arnarholt asylum seeker shelter have been given very clear orders from the Direction of Immigration on where they may and may not walk during their half-hour trek to the nearest bus stop.

(Photo credit: Toshiki Toma)

Stundin points out two distinct problems with this.

First is that the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) does not have the legal authority to prosecute. As detailed in Article 18 of the Law on Treatment of Criminal Cases, prosecuting authorities in Iceland are limited to the state prosecutor, the district prosecutor, and the police.

Second, the map makes it fairly clear that straying from the red line is a criminal offense that will bring down the weight of the law. However, the properties on this map include both private and public property. As Article 17 on the Law on Natural Preservation states, the law permits anyone to walk on undeveloped and unprotected land at will.

As such, UTL not only has no legal authority to prosecute asylum seekers for straying from the red line; restricting their movement to the red line may be illegal in itself.

As The Grapevine has reported, almost all asylum seeker shelters offer far less to their residents in terms of basic needs than even Icelandic prisons do. Stundin has uncovered that Arnarholt was originally intended to have things like Icelandic language classes and daily activities on offer. However, residents at the facility report that these plans were never made a reality.

Rev. Toshiki Toma, himself a vocal advocate for asylum seekers’ rights, told Stundin he believes Arnarholt’s policies are entirely intentional.

“The purpose of [UTL] seems to be to keep people isolated and keep the public uninformed of [asylum seekers’] actual living conditions,” he told reporters.

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