From Iceland — Immigration Directorate Ignored Warnings About Asylum Seeker

Immigration Directorate Ignored Warnings About Asylum Seeker

Published December 9, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The Directorate of Immigration (UTL) reportedly ignored repeated warnings that an asylum seeker under their auspices was depressed and desperate about his situation, culminating in him setting himself on fire last Wednesday.

Sources close to Kvennablaðið report that UTL had been notified repeatedly by friends and associates of the asylum seeker in question that he was struggling with depression and growing increasingly desperate. He also reportedly contacted UTL himself, asking for help with his struggles, to no avail.

The asylum seeker in question is reportedly a man from Macedonia who recently received word he is to be deported. Ultimately, his pleas for help ignored and seeing no other recourse, he poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire at the Viðines asylum seeker shelter.

Most disturbingly, incidents wherein asylum seekers set themselves on fire, due to long waits for an answer from the Directorate of Immigration or due to poor living conditions, have been prevalent in the news over the years.

Last March, an asylum seeker set himself on fire after being evicted from the guesthouse where he was staying.

In August the previous year, an asylum seeker, originally from Iran, arrived at the offices of the Icelandic Red Cross and poured an undisclosed flammable liquid on himself, threatening to set himself on fire. The man first applied for asylum the previous March, and though he had not received an answer despite a regulation requiring one within 90 days, the Directorate of Immigration says this delay is due to the “poor mental state” of the asylum seeker and “the difficulties related to that”.

While the Directorate also pointed out that the man had been granted asylum “in another European state”, refugee rights activist group Ekki Fleiri Brottvísanir (“No More Deportations”) pointed out that the country in question is Italy, where refugee detention centres are already overcrowded and where authorities have been criticised for their asylum seeker policies.

In May 2011, another asylum seeker also threatened to set himself on fire at the Red Cross offices, also citing the length of time he had been made to wait for processing.

The Directorate said that while all available help will be given to asylum seekers having psychological difficulties, attempting to self-harm “will not influence the processing or final decision of his case”.

Ekki Fleiri Brottvísanir criticised this response, saying, “Certainly it is good to encourage people to not set themselves on fire. But when it happens regularly, there is something wrong with the acceptance and treatment these people receive. We encourage the Directorate to stop making poor excuses and to stop deporting asylum seekers.”

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