A sit-in at the Ministry of Justice ended with an unusual degree of force from the Icelandic police, video and firsthand accounts attest.
A video posted by the group Refugees in Iceland shows seven members of the refugee rights group No Borders sitting peacefully on the floor of the main lobby of the Ministry of Justice, in the hopes of finally having a meeting with the Minister on the subject of improving conditions for refugees in Iceland. This marks the third day in a row the group has held a sit-in at the location.
The Minister did not meet with the protesters. Instead, the police were called, who arrived on the scene to disperse the group in the presence of reporters. As can be seen, police applied pressure points and grips to the necks of some, kneeling on the elbows and shoulders of others. (Article continues after video)
One of the protesters, Bjarni Daníel, sustained bruising on his ribs and spoke to Vísir about the experience.
Having been a part of these protests from the first day, Bjarni told reporters that yesterday’s event marked a considerably greater degree of force from the police. Nonetheless, he downplayed his own experience in comparison to what refugees must endure.
“That I was subjected to violence on this occasion isn’t the main thing,” he said. “It’s a small thing in comparison to the violence that refugees have to deal with every day.”
It is unusual for the Icelandic police to use force against peaceful protesters. Force was not even deployed during the largest protest in Icelandic history, when about 23,000 people assembled in front of Parliament in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal. By contrast, roughly two dozen refugees protesting peacefully at the same location resulted in the police deploying pepper spray, even against protesters trying to flee the scene.
The actual demands of the refugee protesters and their allies are fairly simple:
1. No more deportations – deportations are torture.
2. Everybody should get substantial reviewing of their case. Dublin regulation is inhumane and highly flawed.
3. The right to work. We want to get the work permit along with temporary kennitala while we wait for the decision from immigration office. We want to work!
4. Equal access to healthcare. Everybody should get their medical needs met, be it physical or psychological. Currently immigration office in Iceland denies many refugees the right to a suitable healthcare.
5. Closing down of the isolated refugee camp in Ásbrú, Keflavík. It is psychologically devastating to be kept in isolation in Ásbrú. In less then one week two people in Ásbrú have tried to commit suicide.
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