Yesterday’s deportation of an Albanian asylum seeker family, including a woman who is nine months pregnant, has raised pointed questions and strong condemnation from numerous corners of Icelandic society. The Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) continues to contend that they have done nothing wrong.
As reported, the family in question was visited by police last night and suddenly informed that they were going to be deported. The mother of the family, after being examined at the maternity ward of a local hospital, received certification that she was unfit to fly. Furthermore, the family’s case was still pending review and a final decision from the Immigration Appeals Board. Ultimately, the whole family—father, heavily pregnant mother and two-year-old child—were arrested and delivered to the airport.
No Borders Iceland have confirmed that the family is now in Albania, after a 19-hour long flight.
The situation has sparked a heated response, most of it directed at both ÚTL and Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, who is the ultimate authority over ÚTL.
Fréttablaðið reports that Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir pulled no punches, saying, “It is an unacceptable act to send an expectant mother away into uncertainty and destitution. This is a violation of human rights, and goes against the unconditional love of Christian people.” She has requested a meeting with Áslaug Arna on the matter.
Kjartan Hreinn Njálsson, the spokesperson for the Directorate of Health, told reporters that they take the matter very seriously, and have requested more information on the mother’s precise medical condition at the time of her deportation, RÚV reports.
Within the halls of Parliament, Social Democrat MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir and Reform Party MP Jón Steindór Valdimarsson both expressed shock, anger and dismay about the deportation.
“[The deportation] is utterly unacceptable and inhumane, and I condemn these practices of the Directorate of Immigration, the international department of the National Commissioner of the Police, the medical staff at ÚTL and the government as a whole for letting this happen on their watch,” she said.
“This needs to change,” Jón Steindór added. “Treatment of this kind must not repeat itself. I am deeply offended.”
The Women Of Multicultural Ethnicity Network in Iceland also issued a statement on the matter, saying in part, “In Iceland where equality and human rights are held to the highest regard, it is utterly unacceptable to read news of a woman in need and her family being treated in such an inhumane manner by Icelandic authorities. The Directorate of Immigration has all too often demonstrated inhumane actions in the processing of asylum requests and residence permits.”
Even author Hallgrímur Helgason has chimed in on the matter, in a very strongly worded Facebook post, wherein he maintains that the Minister of Justice, the Director of ÚTL and the Police Commissioner should all resign over this.
For her part, Áslaug Arna told reporters that she is aware that Icelandic law allows for the delay of a deportation for health reasons, RÚV reports, and has requested more information from ÚTL on how they arrived at their decision.
Meanwhile, ÚTL maintains that they were just following regulations, contending that the mother was fit to fly, Fréttablaðið reports. They contend that the certificate issued by the hospital which examined her reflected this, despite the fact that the certificate expressly stated that a long flight would prove very difficult for her.
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