Lawyer Calls For Justice Minister's Resignation, Refugees Denied Return To Former Housing

Lawyer Calls For Justice Minister’s Resignation, Refugees Denied Return To Former Housing

Published June 18, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Magnús D. Norðdahl, a lawyer representing a refugee who was unlawfully evicted from asylum seeker housing for refusing to assist in his own deportation, plans to sue the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) for damages incurred and believes Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir should resign. Meanwhile, the Grapevine has learned that many of the formerly evicted refugees will not be allowed to return to the housing they once lived in, but will instead be sent to Ásbrú, near Keflavík.

As reported, 18 refugees in all were evicted from asylum seeker housing over the past two months or so for refusing to take a pre-deportation PCR test, the motivation being not wanting to assist in their own deportations. In response, ÚTL not only evicted them from housing, but also cut them off from their weekly food stipends (asylum seekers are not allowed by law to work) and cancelled medical appointments.

Not going home after all

The Immigration Appeals Board (KNÚ) would later rule that this denial of services was unlawful, and that ÚTL must resume these services for these refugees. However, the Grapevine spoke recently with two of the former evictees on whether or not ÚTL was making good on the return of services, and learned that some changes were made.

The two refugees, who asked that their names not be disclosed for fear that speaking to the press would hurt their chances of receiving international protection in Iceland, told the Grapevine that they were amongst a group of other former evictees who were called to a recent meeting with immigration authorities. They were addressed by a translator who, throughout the meeting, conveyed questions and answers to and from an immigration authority employee who stayed in a separate room. These former evictees were told that all of their services would be restored over the next few days, but they would have to move to the asylum seeker housing in Ásbrú.

Many of these refugees had previously stayed in housing in Hafnarfjörður. When they asked why they could not return to this housing, they were told that it was because they had lost their services at that facility. Other housing in Reykjavík was also not an option. So while technically, these refugees are being granted housing again, they will have to live in a more isolated location than before.

“This is extremely serious.”

Speaking to Vísir, Magnús believes that responsibility for ÚTL’s debacle rests with the Minister of Justice, who is the highest authority on immigration matters.

“People were kicked out onto the street without shelter or food, in violation of the law,” he told reporters. “And it is my opinion that the party that overseas this sector is of course the Minister of Justice, Áslaug Arna, and it would be right that she resign over this matter. This is extremely serious.”

Magnús is now preparing to file a lawsuit against ÚTL for damages incurred by his client, which will likely be precedent setting for other former evictees.

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