In a radio interview with Bylgjan yesterday, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir spoke up on the case of a family of six, including four young children, who have lived in Iceland for over two years and are facing deportation this week.
“The case processing times have been shortened, which is very important,” Katrín said. “Because it is not humane to hold people in uncertainty for so long, especially children. In this particular case, although the processing time is within the limit, we’re still here for some reason, and I of course find this unacceptable, with these people in reality here [in uncertainty] for far too long a time, which is inhumane.”
The processing time limit that Katrín is referring to is the so-called 16-month rule; i.e., if an asylum case is still being processed 16 months after first being submitted, the applicant is granted residency. In the case of the Khedr family, they came to Iceland from Egypt in early August 2018, and immediately applied for asylum. In July 2019, the Directorate of Immigration denied their application, and so the family filed an appeal with the Immigration Appeals Board. The Appeals Board came to the conclusion to agree with the Directorate’s decision in November of the same year. This would put them just a couple weeks shy of being granted asylum in accordance with the 16-month regulation.
However, the announcement of the date of their deportation, September 16th, only arrived later in the first week of September, by which time the family has been in Iceland for over two years.
While Justice Minister Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir has said “We are not going to change any regulations to rescue a family who have gone to the media,” the Grapevine and others have pointed out Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifically states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
As Iceland has encoded this convention into law, no new regulations are necessary in order to grant this family asylum. The Prime Minister echoed these sentiments, saying, “As we are also bound by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we need to consider the interests of the children.” She added that she agreed that the question of whether the 16-month rule pertains solely to the case processing time or the time they have spent waiting as a whole is irrelevant to the children in question.
Stundin reports that the family are currently undergoing coronavirus screening and quarantine in preparation for their impending deportation. The lawyer for the family, Magnús D. Norðdal, told reporters that they have filed two appeals to re-examine the case and one appeal to delay the deportation decision with the Immigration Appeals Board. He added that the Prime Minister’s words must mean something.
“I am of course binding my hopes on that the support of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who gave her opinion on the matter on the radio, will matter,” he said. “There she said that this treatment is inhumane, and not only for the Khedr family but for other children in the same situation. When the Prime Minister comes forward in this way, and takes a position with the family, that has to means something. She runs the government.”
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