Late last night, the majority of Iceland’s parliament approved changes to the Law on Foreigners, which affords protections for asylum seeker children, albeit only those children whose asylum applications were submitted before the passage of this law.
The text of the law defines this as an “emergency measure”, and makes two significant changes:
First, it changes the text of Article 36 Section 2 of the original, which states in part that if more than 12 months have passed since an application for international protection has been submitted to authorities without a decision being made, then that application will be taken into authoritative consideration. The emergency measure changes this period to nine months if the matter concerns a child.
Second, it changes the text of Article 74 Section 2 of the original, which states that if no decision has been made on an application for international protection for humanitarian reasons within 18 months of first applying, then the applicant can be issued a residence permit. The emergency measure changes this period to 15 months, also if the matter concerns a child.
However, this emergency measure only applies to those who have applied for asylum before the law has been passed. These applicants have 14 days from the passage of this law to take their cases to the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board.
An overwhelming majority of MPs voted in favour of the measure, with 38 in favour, 17 against, and eight not present. The votes against the measure all came from the Independence Party, with Yes votes coming from every other party. The main objection from the Independence Party was that the measure could increase the likelihood of the trafficking of children in Iceland – even though, again, this law applies only to those children who already have applications for asylum pending, before the passage of this law.
Despite this crucial condition, RÚV reports that this emergency measure could nonetheless have an effect on some 80 children in Iceland. Amongst them are two families, one from Afghanistan and another from Nigeria, whose impending deportations sparked public outcry and a protest of hundreds.
In fact, Iceland has encoded in its laws the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Refugee Convention, all of which, directly or indirectly, already prohibit deportations of this nature.