Despite the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) statements to the contrary, not only do they have the power to stop deporting asylum seekers to Greece; deporting them to Greece may be in violation of Icelandic law and international human rights law.
As reported, 14 refugees, most of them from Palestine, are currently homeless, cut off from food stipends (asylum seekers are not legally permitted to work) and denied health care after they were evicted from refugee shelters for refusing to take a pre-deportation PCR screening. Their refusal to take the test was based entirely on not wanting to assist with their own deportations.
ÚTL responded to the prevalent public outcry to this situation by telling the press that their hands are tied; that the law actually prevents them from examining the asylum applications of anyone coming from a country where they were already granted international protection, barring special circumstances. This refers to Chapter 4 Article 36 of the Law on Foreigners, which concerns international protection.
However, there are exceptions. The second to last paragraph of this very same article also says: “If the application of [the first paragraph of Article 36] would lead to a violation of Article 42, e.g. due to circumstances in the country to which the applicant is to be sent, the application shall be considered.” Article 42 expressly states: “According to this Act, it is not permitted to send a foreigner or a stateless person to an area where he has reason to fear persecution … or due to circumstances similar to those in the refugee concept, are in imminent danger of dying or being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment.”
Conditions in Greece, for asylum seekers and refugees alike, are well-documented. For one example of many, a report from November 2020, ‘Report on the Living Conditions of Beneficiaries of International Protection in Greece’, paints a damning picture of conditions in that country, stating in part: “A number of international and national courts have already held that the living conditions of asylum-seekers and recognised refugees alike in Greece are so dire that they are capable of amounting to ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’ under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 4 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, or Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and therefore prevent the return of persons to the country in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement.”
As such, these deportations to Greece may be in contravention to Icelandic law and international agreements alike—and this is without even considering the possible illegality of the evictions, which the Icelandic Red Cross is currently exploring, or the fact that daily coronavirus cases in Greece are now far beyond where they were in the spring of 2020, when ÚTL stopped deportations to Greece based on concerns about the pandemic in that country, only to resume these deportations last autumn.
In response, a solidarity demonstration will be held in front of Parliament tomorrow at 13:00. Organised by Solaris, No Borders, and Refugees in Iceland, the stated purposes of the demonstration are:
“The demands of the refugees:
-the refugees that have been evicted and deprived of basic services that ÚTL should provide them with will receive those services again without delay
-Icelandic authorities put an immediate stop to deportations to Greece
-Icelandic authorities admit that Greece is not a safe place for refugees, regardless of whether they have received international protection there or not
-Icelandic authorities bring an end to their inhuman and xenophobic policies regarding refugees
-authorities of all European countries accept the mutual responsibility of providing refugees with safe, humane and dignified living conditions”
All of the general public are welcome to attend.
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