UNICEF in Iceland and the Icelandic Red Cross have issued a joint statement, criticising the Icelandic government for violating the human rights of children, while offering changes they would like to see to the existing system.
The statement points out that Iceland signed the United Nations Rights of the Child in 2013. Despite this, Icelandic authorities regularly violate the letter and the spirit of this agreement in their handling of asylum seeker children, in addition to violating Icelandic law, in some cases.
“Many children come to Iceland seeking asylum,” the statement reads in part. “UNICEF in Iceland and the Icelandic Red Cross underline the importance that the circumstances of these children are especially examined and that formal interviews by taken with children seeking asylum who have the age and level of development needed. It is not possible to assess what is actually best for a child unless the child has had an opportunity to express themselves of their own agency.”
Amongst the other ways in which the Icelandic government should amend its ways, they add, is to ensure these children are given adequate shelter, are allowed to go to school while their cases are being processed, and further, that when it is uncertain if an asylum seeker is below the age of 18 or 18 and older, the child is given the benefit of the doubt.
This latter point has special pertinence to Iceland. As reported last June, an Iraqi youth was forcibly detained by Icelandic police and deported to Norway. The Directorate of Immigration contended that the youth was an adult based on a controversial dental check that has been shown to be inaccurate and unscientific.
In addition, Iceland is also set to deport an entire family that includes a child born in Iceland. However, according to Article 21 of the Act on Foreigners, “a foreigner born in Iceland, who has since resided permanently and continuously in Iceland, can not [be] denied entry to Iceland or expelled from Iceland”.
In fact, recent polling has shown that not only are most Icelanders against stricter rules for asylum seekers; they also believe the Icelandic government should do more to accept more refugees.
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