Even workers within refugee services want to change the system, and there is a tremendous difference between how “quota refugees” and asylum seekers are treated. As such, the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) in its current form should be discontinued, a new report from the Institute of International Affairs Centre for Small State Studies at the University of Iceland concludes. RÚV was first to report on the matter.
The report, which was conducted for the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of the Interior (which oversees UTL), saw a great deal of discrepancy between how “quota refugees” (i.e., refugees selected from camps abroad by the Icelandic government) and those who come to Iceland seeking asylum are treated. However, the report notes that there was a “poor response rate”, the reason for which the report notes was that “refugees were wary of responding to the survey out of fear that their answers could be passed on to other parties or used against them. These results should only be viewed as a clue to the reality of the situation and must not be used to generalise about the refugee population as a whole.”
That said, amongst their findings were the following:
• Asked what services they had received
after being granted an Icelandic residence
permit, 88% of quota refugees mentioned
accommodation, compared to just 32%
of those came on their own initiative, a
• There was also a significant difference
regarding whether respondents had received
assistance from a support family assigned by
the Red Cross; 88% of quota refugees had
been assigned a support family, compared
to 18% of those who came on their own
• The questions on trust in the various institutions
involved in refugee matters revealed
that the majority of respondents were not
aware of the Multicultural and Information
Centre. Of the institutions included in the
questions, the Red Cross was the most
trusted, with 67% of respondents having
high or very high levels of trust in it. Around
50% had high or very high levels of trust
in the Directorate of Immigration and the
Police. Just over 30% had high or very high
levels of trust in Social Services.
• Questions about refugees’ experience of
prejudice revealed that the primary contexts
for prejudice and discrimination were hiring
(46%), at work (47%), in education (43%)
and in public (43%).
• Despite this, 73% of respondents reported
that they were somewhat or very happy and
the majority of respondents, 83%, said that
Iceland was the place they most wanted to
In addition, the report spoke with eight people who “work in the day-to-day integration of refugees”. These workers also pointed out the discrepancy of treatment between refugees and asylum seekers, and also noted that there needed to be a long-term strategy for integration within the system itself. This included being able get adequate housing, find work, and learn the Icelandic language – all things that refugees and asylum seekers expressed a desire to do.
As such, the report concludes, the current division of responsibilities between different Icelandic authorities necessitates sweeping changes.
“The proposals presented here assume that the Directorate of Immigration in its current form would be discontinued,” the report states. “It was suggested that the collaborative framework should be reorganised, assuming the involvement of a few ministries, state institutions and municipalities, as well as services provided by organisations. The leading institutions would be the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of the Interior, in an organised collaborative framework that has been termed ‘joined up government’. With this collaboration between key ministries, a single institution would be formed responsible for providing information, processing applications and organising and coordinating all services for foreigners, immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees in one place, i.e. a ‘one-stop shop’.”
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