Published February 22, 2018
A young asylum seeker, who was badly beaten while in custody for trying to stow away on a ship, was deported without warning, and not even his lawyer was informed. This deportation shows a marked departure from standard procedure, and has been condemned by asylum seeker rights group Solaris.
RÚV reports on the case of Houssin Bsraoi, an asylum seeker from Morocco who came to Iceland on the Norræna ferry with his friend Yassine two and a half years ago. Both were taken into child protective services soon after their arrival.
While Yassine was adopted by a foster family in Bolungarvík, Houssin was not so fortunate. Authorities deemed him to be older than 18 years old (most likely by using a dental examination that has been dismissed as scientifically inaccurate) and told he would be deported. (Update, Feb 23: Stundin reports that the Directorate of Immigration now contends they contacted officials in Morocco, who said that Houssin was born in 1996, making him about 20 years old when he arrived in Iceland.)
Rather than be sent back to his home country, he opted to make several attempts to stow away on ships heading west. He was eventually arrested for these attempts, and sent to Litla-Hraun prison.
Houssin was attacked in prison last month, and he was later moved to another prison in Hólmsheiði. Shortly thereafter, his friends stopped hearing from him. They later learned, by checking his Facebook, that he had in the interim ended up in Morocco. It came to light that he had been deported, and no one had been informed that his deportation was impending – not even his lawyer.
This marks a departure from how deportations are normally conducted in Iceland. Usually, asylum seekers – or at the very least their lawyers – are informed that a deportation will soon happen.
Further complicating matters is the fact that charges will in all likelihood be filed against Houssin’s attackers. His advocate, Lilju Margréti Olsen, told Vísir that by law, in such cases statements must be taken from the plaintiff in an Icelandic court of law. With Houssin on the streets in Morocco, this not only raises the question of if he will be brought back to Iceland, but also why he was deported without notice in the first place. As he is not only the victim in this case but also the key witness, without his statement charges might end up being dropped against his attackers.
Asylum seeker rights group Solaris points out that Houssin’s deportation contradicts the Directorate of Immigration’s own outlines for how deportations are supposed to be conducted. On the Directorate’s own website, they expressly say “authorities will inform the relevant parties of the exact date of a deportation as soon as possible, at least two weeks in advance or as soon as a deportation date can be determined”. As such, immigration authorities have effectively broken their own rules in how they conducted Houssin’s deportation.
Solaris has condemned not only the deportation of Houssin, but the Icelandic government’s “lack of policy when it comes to asylum seeker matters”, and have called upon all relevant authorities to “respond immediately to this state of emergency”.