Published March 20, 2017
Abdolhamid Rahmani, an Afghan asylum seeker who went on hunger strike nearly three weeks ago, has been arrested. He is slated to be deported tomorrow.
A source close to the Grapevine told us the arrest occurred about an hour ago. Three officers – two in uniformed and one plainclothed – arrived at the asylum seeker residence where he was living, and started knocking on doors looking for him. Upon finding him, he was bundled into a car and taken away. Police told those present that he will be deported tomorrow.
The arrest of Abdolhamid, amongst other asylum seekers facing deportation, may in fact be in violation of the Dublin Regulation – the same regulation Icelandic authorities use to justify deporting an asylum seeker back to their previous point of departure. A recent court ruling points out Article 2 of the Regulation, which states that detaining someone slated for deportation is only justifiable if there is reason to believe the asylum seeker may abscond, i.e., flee and go into hiding. In fact, Article 28 of that same Regulation states clearly: “Member States shall not hold a person in detention for the sole reason that he or she is subject to the procedure established by this Regulation.”
Given the state of Abdolhamid’s health, and given that Iceland is a small island country, risk of absconding is all but absent.
As reported, 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 will be sent to Greece tomorrow, where his future remains decidedly uncertain.