Published September 21, 2016
The Grapevine learned just moments ago that Morteza Songolzadeh, an asylum seeker from Iran, will not be deported from Iceland. He was scheduled to be put on a plane to France tomorrow morning.
Morteza has been living in Iceland for over a year now, and was sentenced to death in Iran for converting to Christianity. Nonetheless, both the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) and the Immigration Appeals Board initially rejected his application for asylum, without even opening his case file, on the grounds of the Dublin Regulation – an international ruling which gives authorities the power, although not the obligation, to deport asylum seekers back to their previous point of departure.
However, Morteza received word from the police today that his deportation has been cancelled. Although it is not known at the time of this writing if this cancellation is temporary pending further investigation or permanent, Morteza is to meet with his lawyer, Eva Dóra Kolbrúnardóttir, tomorrow to discuss what their next steps will be. (Update: RÚV now reports that UTL has agreed to temporarily suspend his deportation while his application for a temporary residence and work permit is being assessed.)
“I am still in shock and surprise over this,” Morteza told us, when asked how he plans to celebrate. “I actually had all my luggage packed, expecting to be sent out of the country tomorrow morning.”
Eva filed a formal complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsman regarding the treatment of Morteza’s case. The complaint contends that neither the Directorate nor the Appeals Board had acted lawfully in the treatment of Morteza’s case – specifically, that they did not act on exceptions outlined in the Dublin Regulation and in Icelandic law that an asylum case can be opened and examined in special circumstances. Being sentenced to death for apostasy, Eva told The Grapevine, certainly constitutes a special circumstance.
“I just want to thank everybody for all their support and help,” Morteza said. “Icelanders have shown me so much support and help throughout – my lawyer, the church, the Bishop, certain members of the media. Everybody has just been so good to me. I pray to God now that I can continue my life in Iceland.”