Reykjavík District Court confirmed a ruling today that would deport a 20-month-old child born in Iceland, despite both international and Icelandic laws that expressly forbid this practice. The family of the child told Grapevine that they will appeal this decision.
The case is one that sparked considerable public criticism of the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL). It begins with Nazife and Erion, an Albanian couple who first came to Iceland seeking asylum in 2015. At that time, they received work permits and were employed by a hotel in Reykjavík until they were deported. They returned shortly thereafter and applied for a residence permit, and had to furthermore pay 700,000 ISK to the state—the amount they were charged by the government for their own deportation.
Their daughter, Erna Reka, is 20 months old and was born in Iceland. Despite the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which obliges countries to put the best interests of a child ahead of all else, and despite Article 102 of Iceland’s own Law on Foreigners, which forbids deporting a foreigner who was born in Iceland and had continuous residence here, the entire family was set to be deported.
ÚTL contends that because children of asylum seekers are registered in the National Registry in a different manner than other children, they are exempt from both of these laws. The family, however, contend that this is in itself an example of discrimination and directly violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Auður Tinna Aðalbjarnardóttir, a lawyer for the family, took exception with much of the reasoning in the court decision. She told Grapevine that while there are exceptions to the general rule that children must be registered with the same address as the parents (the parents, having had their residence permit applications rejected, were still registered as living in their home country of Albania), the court did not believe any exceptions apply to Erna’s case. Auður disagrees, and also disagrees with the court’s contention that registering the child in this manner was not an official ruling.
“I cannot accept that the judgement says that this was not an administrative decision,” Auður told Grapevine. “We will look into the judgement more fully now, and decide on appeal or not.”
Grapevine also spoke briefly with the family, who were understandably emotionally upset in the wake of the ruling. Nazife says that she absolutely plans on appealing the decision. If that comes to pass, the case would then go to the Appellate Court. Whether or not the family can stay in the country pending appeal is as yet undetermined.
This possible case of illegal discrimination against the child is not an uncommon occurrence in Iceland. Stundin, for example, has reported that Minister of Justice Sigríður Á. Andersen, in response to a formal question from Pirate MP Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, has revealed that Iceland has deported 14 children who were born in the country over the past eight years. During the same period, 281 children seeking asylum in Iceland were denied it, and barred from staying in the country.
This particular case has been criticised by supporters of Erna and her family, with one witness for the previous court hearing on the matter saying that the lawyer for the National Registry made emotionally based arguments, amongst them that if this family were allowed to stay, Iceland would become inundated with foreign couples attempting to give birth to children in Iceland in order to remain in the country.