The Grapevine has been informed that four more Palestinian refugees have been evicted by immigration authorities for refusing to assist in their own deportations to Greece. They are reportedly in their 20s, originally from Gaza, and have all suffered the well-documented abuses the refugees are subjected to in Greece.
This now marks 18 refugees who have been made homeless by the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL), who have evicted these refugees for refusing to take a pre-deportation PCR test. In addition to being rendered homeless, they are also cut off from food stipends (asylum seekers are not legally permitted to work) and denied health care.
While ÚTL has maintained that they are bound by law to deport people to Greece, these deportations may be unlawful, both by Icelandic law and international agreements that Iceland is a part of.
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.”
For his part, Mohammed Alsweirki, a refugee from Gaza himself who has been working to defend the rights of refugees like him, offered the following statement to the Grapevine, directed at the Icelandic public in general and at Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir in particular:
Everyone knows the situation in Gaza and the war there. This is what pushed them to get out of there and leave their family and out of Gaza to search for a safe life in which they can live, work and learn. But they did not find the safe and secure thing that they expected in Greece. They found the opposite in Greece of racism, beating, torture, imprisonment and sleep. in the streets without providing any shelter or aid for them. This is what made them leave Greece in search of a better and safer life. These young people want to build their lives and their future, live in safety and help their families in Gaza. But in fact, now they are in a situation where they need someone to help them. Imagine how difficult and dangerous the thing they lived through in Palestine and Greece was. Do you think these young people deserve a better life? We hope all the people in Iceland support us and help us stay here.
Refugees being misplaced and left without a home to go to, what if that was you? Toxic smoke filling the lungs of little ones, suffering in pain, would you not cry for change if that was your child? We can do so much, our voice is powerful together, but weak when divided. If we can stand up for a football team, why can’t we stand up for humans in need? One day, our nation will feel the effects of other people’s pain. One day, our children may also be misplaced, Then will we see that our silence was a curse and our voice could have been a blessing. Rest in peace young souls , may you never feel pain again. Rest in peace to all the other refugees who have passed away. To all the immigrants who have died looking for a better life. Rest in peace to all humans whose life’s have been cut short because of corruption and hate. Love is powerful, we just need to stop hating, we have to stand up and show love and compassion.
I tell the Minister of Justice. Is expelling refugees into the street, expelling them from their places of residence and depriving them of their material and health rights, is this part of your electoral propaganda? What does it mean for immigration to expel refugees into the street and try to forcibly send them to Greece at the same time you run for the next elections? Is this your new policy? Where is the humanity that you talk about in front of people and in the news and on television? Is this all just deceiving people and public opinion in Iceland?
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