From Iceland — Immigration Directorate Adopts Stricter Policy For Asylum Seekers

Immigration Directorate Adopts Stricter Policy For Asylum Seekers

Published November 22, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The Directorate of Immigration (UTL) has adopted a new restriction for asylum seekers, which they contend is a response to the growing numbers of asylum applications.

Vísir reports that, according to the new policy, a person who has been denied asylum will not be permitted to return to Iceland “for a specific amount of time” if they do not leave the country willingly by a specified date. Furthermore, this return ban pertains to all Schengen countries, and will last at least two years from the date that the asylum seeker is escorted out of the country.

Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, the deputy director of UTL, told reporters this decision was made due to the “enormously high percentage” of asylum seekers who come from countries that UTL considers to be “safe”.

This reasoning brings to mind last year’s story about two families from Albania, both with chronically ill young children, who were initially denied asylum in Iceland on the grounds that Albania is not a war-torn country. The deportations were very unpopular with the general public and sparked widespread criticism.

UTL director Kristín Völundardóttir – who has in the past compared asylum seekers to tourists looking for free lodging and food – discussed the matter in an interview with RÚV, saying that both families were deported on the grounds that the families could just as easily receive adequate health care in Albania. At the same time, she also said she did not know if the Directorate had assessed whether or not the children in question could actually receive health care.

This lack of attention to detail prompted the Parliamentary Ombudsman to demand an explanation as to how, or even if, their cases were processed. An Icelandic doctor also criticised the deportation decision, likening it to a death sentence for the children in question.

Ultimately, it was determined that the children did not, in fact, have adequate access to health care in their home countries. They were then granted asylum, and awarded citizenship.

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