Ali and Razia, a young couple from Afghanistan who had a baby in Iceland over Christmas, are now being expelled from the country, Kveikur at RÚV reports. The couple fled Afghanistan when Ali was 15, and the Taliban threatened to kill him if he did not join their ranks. After a little over a year in Iran, they moved to the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016, where they were granted asylum.
The situation for refugees in Greece is bleak. Housing is sparse, and access to medical services is limited. When Razia became pregnant in early 2019, they decided to seek a better life for their baby. They moved to Iceland and requested asylum here. Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration, Útlendingastofnun (ÚTL), promptly rejected their request on the grounds that they had previously been granted asylum in Greece. They appealed the decision, but it was final. The fact that their baby was born in Iceland didn’t matter.
Similar song, different dance
The case of Ali and Razia isn’t an exception for those seeking asylum in Iceland. Faisal and Niha Khan and their son Muhammed, faced a similar situation recently. They applied for asylum in 2017 after fleeing Pakistan. In her home country, Niha was supposed to marry her much older cousin, but she fell in love with Faisal and eloped with him. Unfortunately, her cousin’s influence and power gave her good reason to believe that her life would be in danger if they stayed. But they didn’t quite fit the strict guidelines for refugees from Pakistan. ÚTL is merciless in the application of the law (though not always to international child-welfare and refugee accords to which Iceland is signatory), so the family was denied.
A happy ending
Having befriended the Khans, the Grapevine’s editor-in-chief, Valur Grettisson used his connections and influence to help them. Thousands of others rallied behind the family, signing a petition on change.org. Even with the petition and community support, it looked as though they would have to leave. At the last minute, however, Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir passed a regulation that said families with children who have been here more than sixteen months would be allowed to stay. This meant a happy ending for the Khans. Of course, this happy ending came with an overwhelming amount of publicity and support, which not everyone has.
At this time, it appears as though the situation for Ali and Razia is not as positive. Until the law changes, countless other asylum seekers and refugees will face the same bleak circumstance. There has been a lot of political debate around how to solve this, and many politicians are trying to pass legislation to make it easier for refugees to seek asylum here.
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