Eugene Imotu, a father of three (including two children born in Iceland) and asylum seeker from Nigeria, was moments ago arrested and taken into custody. Grapevine has learned he will be deported tomorrow to Nigeria. His lawyer says there is “no legal reason” for Eugene’s arrest.
Eugene is the partner of Regina Osarumaese, who is herself still in danger of being deported along with her three children. The couple’s latest child, a daughter, was born last January. Eugene also had a temporary work permit at the time of his arrest, issued on June 14.
Although Eugene’s deportation is not being made on the basis of the Dublin Regulation – an international agreement which gives governments the power, but not the obligation, to send asylum seekers back to their previous point of departure – the regulation does outline how asylum seekers are supposed to be treated. Eugene’s arrest may, in fact, be in violation of this regulation.
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.”
As Iceland is a remote island in the north Atlantic, there are few places to hide and so it is unlikely Eugene is any kind of flight risk.
Grapevine spoke with Eugene’s lawyer, Gísli Kr. Björnsson, who told us that he plans on filing a new application with the Directorate of Immigration by the end of the week. Gísli agreed that there is “no legal reason” for Eugene to be arrested. He added that he was perplexed by the arrest.
“I have been speaking with the police,” he told us. “It was my understanding that they were going to wait on this matter, because they knew there was an application pending on [Eugene] this week. Maybe there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication, but I was very surprised to learn of the arrest.”
Gísli is now ramping up efforts to get Eugene residence in Iceland.
“I intend to send in a new application for Eugene to the Directorate this week,” Gísli told us. This application will be based first on Article 74 Paragraph 2 of the new Act on Foreigners, which states that asylum seekers can be given residence permits if they have been in Iceland for 18 months or more. As Eugene has been in Iceland since 2014, this Article does apply, and was actually the reasoning used to give others asylum, as Stundin has reported. Second, this application will be based on Article 37, which outlines reasons for granting protection to asylum seekers; in Eugene’s case, Nigeria is facing a devastating famine. Lastly, this application will be based on a change of circumstance; namely, that Eugene and Regina now how three children together, two of whom were born in Iceland.
In the meantime, No Borders Iceland have organised a demonstration in response, which is to take place at Hlemmur, across the street from the police station, at 20:00 tonight.
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