From Iceland — New Law On Foreigners Hitting Asylum Seekers In Iceland Hardest

New Law On Foreigners Hitting Asylum Seekers In Iceland Hardest

Published January 17, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Changes to asylum seeker regulations has left many of them broke and isolated, when most of them already do not have the right to work. The Red Cross has criticised these changes, and an MP for the Left-Greens believes it is likely one of many aspects to the Law on Foreigners which will soon be reviewed.

One of the many changes to the Law on Foreigners made last August, Stundin reports, is that asylum seekers who have had their applications rejected would be stripped of any financial support while they await deportation. In addition, asylum seekers from so-called “safe countries” and those whose applications are considered “obviously groundless” are denied what few social services asylum seekers are afforded.

Put into practice, when asylum seekers are already denied by law the right to work, is that these applicants are left without any financial support while they await deportation. This can mean weeks without a means to buy food, and in some cases they are also denied bus tickets to get anywhere where food donations might be on offer. As asylum seeker shelters also forbid visitations from volunteers who might bring them food, these people are left isolated and without a means of support while awaiting deportation.

The standard weekly allowance for an asylum seeker is about 8,000 ISK per week, and 5,000 ISK per child, raising questions about how much money is actually being saved by this change to the regulations.

“For example, applicants staying at the Airport Inn in Reykjanes have not received bus tickets after the bus service there ceased to be free at the beginning of the year,” Brynhildur Bolladóttir of the Red Cross told Stundin. “People with children who voluntarily withdrew their applications were denied an allowance. They can continue to have housing, but all their money runs out while they’re awaiting deportation.”

Stundin contacted Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, the parliamentary chair of the Left-Green Party, who said that while this matter in particular has not been discussed, “On the other hand, this is one of those things that will most likely come up when we review the Law on Foreigners.”

A note about the right to work for asylum seekers: Most asylum seekers do not have the right to work in Iceland. However, there are exceptions. Asylum seekers whose cases are not subject to the Dublin Regulation are allowed to work if their cases are undergoing “substantive review”. However, to do so, they must work without an Icelandic identity number (kennitala), and only under the sponsorship of an Icelandic employer to provide a temporary work permit – and they cannot start working until that permit is approved. This means that even amongst those asylum seekers whose cases do not pertain to the Dublin Regulation – and many, if not most, do – their options are extremely limited, the process is time consuming, and the lack of a kennitala usually also means the inability to open an Icelandic bank account, while drastically lowers their chances of being hired in the first place.

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