From Iceland — Afghan Asylum Seeker, Facing Deportation, On Hunger Strike

Afghan Asylum Seeker, Facing Deportation, On Hunger Strike

Published March 7, 2017

Abdolhamid Rahmani, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, is facing an impending deportation to Greece, despite having been extorted into accepting asylum in that country after a lengthy imprisonment.

The Grapevine spoke with Abdolhamid, with the help of an interpreter, this afternoon. Abdolhamid’s parents were killed in an earthquake in 2006. He and his brothers ran afoul of a local warlord, who persecuted his family for many years. After one of Abdolhamid’s brothers was killed by an associate of this warlord, Abdolhamid opted to flee the country.

His journey would eventually take him to Greece. There, he was treated the way almost all refugees to Greece are treated: he was arrested and imprisoned. Abdolhamid was told his options were to either agree to apply for asylum in Greece, or be sentenced to 18 months in prison. He initially refused to accept asylum, but after 20 months in prison, he finally relented. Still, he was not released, and would spend a total of about four years in prison before he was finally released, in the fall of 2014.

Abdolhamid came to Iceland in August 2016. He had been taking Icelandic classes, and is a skilled masonry worker. However, his application and his appeals for asylum were denied by both the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) and the Immigration Appeals Board, who refused to even examine his case. This is most likely due to the Dublin Regulation – an international agreement which gives signatory states the power to deport asylum seekers if they were granted asylum in another country. Given the fact that he was effectively extorted into accepting asylum in Greece – and moreover, because he wants to make a life for himself in Iceland – he has refused to accept the deportation decision.

As such, he has been on a hunger strike for nine days at the time of this writing, and has all but refused even water, despite the pleas of his friends at the shelter where he lives. It is his hope that he be granted asylum in Iceland, where he hopes to resume his Icelandic language classes, and eventually be able to receive gainful employment (asylum seekers are forbidden by law to work) as he builds a new life for himself in peace.

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