Published November 16, 2016
A child welfare official ultimately prevented the deportation of an asylum seeker family, including two young children, in the early hours of this morning. Their ultimate fate remains uncertain, but supporters and the press where at the family’s home when police arrived, and were summarily ordered off the property.
As reported, the family, the parents of which are originally from Togo but fled persecution to seek asylum in Iceland, include two children, aged two years and 18 months. They have been living in Iceland for the past two years now. News of their impending deportation spread across social media, alerting members of the press and others.
The following video, recorded by asylum seekers rights group Ekki Fleiri Brottvísanir in both English and Icelandic, recounts the events that transpired:
As can be seen, police ordered both the supporters of this family and the press to leave the area while they conducted the deportation. The mother of the family, Fadila, became so overcome with fear and sadness that she began to scream and cry, her cries heard throughout the building.
Police called a representative of the Child Welfare Committee of Reykjanesbær to assist in the deportation. However, the representative of the committee told the police that in light of the circumstances, the deportation should be delayed. The police then left the location, but Ekki Fleiri Brottvísanir report the police remained in their vehicles for a considerable time before finally leaving.
The children in question were both born in Iceland, and have had continuous residency here. Despite the decision of the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) to deport the family, it should be noted that Article 21 of the Act on Foreigners explicitly states that “a foreigner born in Iceland, who has since resided permanently and continuously in Iceland, cannot [be] denied entry to Iceland or expelled from Iceland”, with the original Icelandic version of this law adding “[there shall be no deportation] especially in the case of a child or the closest relative of a child, and the child’s best interest shall be upheld on decision”. Even so, UTL has deported or ordered the deportation of families, some with young children who were born in Iceland.
This policy has already been harshly criticised by UNICEF and Red Cross in Iceland, and has sparked public protest. A petition is now being circulated that calls upon the Government Agency for Child Protection to file charges against UTL for putting children in danger.
In fact, most Icelanders disagree strongly with the government’s asylum seeker and refugee policies. A recent poll from RÚV showing that about 73% of Icelanders believe the government should actually be accepting more refugees. Another poll from RÚV showed that, in addition, 70% of Icelanders are against making asylum regulations stricter.