Numerous questions have been raised regarding the case of Eugene Imotu, a father of three and asylum seeker who was arrested without warning last Tuesday and subsequently deported. The arrest not only has no legal basis, as his lawyer has said; there is a strong case to be made that his deportation is in violation of Icelandic law. In addition, it appears that no public office wants to take responsibility for the deportation.
First of all, 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.”
Second, as human rights lawyer Katrín Oddsdóttir pointed out on Kjarninn, Icelandic law on the Rights of the Child, established by the United Nations, is very clear on this matter: signatory states cannot separate parents from their children unless it is in the best interests of the child, which must be determined in a court of law.
Eugene’s lawyer, Gísli Kr. Björnsson, told the Grapevine that there was “no legal reason” for Eugene’s arrest, adding, “It was my understanding that [the police] 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.”
In looking for answers, friends of Eugene reached out to authorities. In a press release they subsequently issued, these friends said the police told them they were only following the orders of the Directorate of Immigration (UTL). UTL, in turn, told them that the matter was out of their hands and was the responsibility of the Immigration Appeals Board (KNU). KNU subsequently said that they had offered to review further documentation from Eugene in order to delay the deportation – but this request was not made until the plane carrying Eugene was already in the air.
In the meantime, Eugene’s lawyer is filing a new application on his behalf. 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, Eugene is by now on his way to Nigeria, separated from his family, hoping that Icelandic authorities will allow him to be reunited with them again some day.