Justice Ministry To Let Asylum Seeker Legal Aid Contract With Icelandic Red Cross Expire

Justice Ministry To Let Asylum Seeker Legal Aid Contract With Icelandic Red Cross Expire

Published February 16, 2022

Photo by
Art Bicnick

The Ministry of Justice’s contract with the Icelandic Red Cross, in which lawyers working for the Red Cross provide legal and interpretative services to those seeking international protection in Iceland, will be allowed to expire on April 30, Vísir reports.

We have been having some awful weather here as of late, so we’re specially grateful for our comfy traditional lopapeysa sweaters, the beautiful woolen garments which have been keeping Icelanders warm for generations. They’re available in our shop, and ours are hand-knitted right here in Iceland.

Until recently, those seeking asylum in Iceland have been able to get free legal aid and other services from the Icelandic Red Cross, under the auspices of the Red Cross’ contract with the Ministry to provide these services. However, the Ministry has now opted to let this contract expire, and will not renew it. As such, all lawyers for the Icelandic Red Cross working within this field have been let go.

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson defended the decision by saying that the Ministry has many changes in store when it comes to immigration services.

“Part of the work done in this contract will be moving to another ministry,” Jón said. “[The Red Cross] has in other words provided social services to asylum seekers, which will go elsewhere, to the Ministry of Social Affairs, and also spokesperson services, which are under our auspices. So it was decided to re-examine this.”

The news follows in the wake of Grapevine’s report that the Ministry of Justice is proposing numerous changes to the Law on Foreigners that take particular aim at asylum seekers, adding additional obstacles and restrictions that attorney Claudia Ashanie Wilson with Claudia & Partners Legal Services told the Grapevine possibly contradict human rights laws.

This bill, in fact, is much like a similar bill that has been submitted on three previous occasions, and failed in Parliament each time, only the provisions in this newest iteration are considerably stricter.

Guðríður Lára Þrastardóttir, an attorney and the head of the legal aid team for asylum seekers at the Red Cross, told reporters that they had no choice but to let these attorneys go.

“This naturally needed to be done because we won’t have a contract after April 30th,” she said. “So if someone else gets this project, then the Red Cross will cease these operations and it won’t be possible to pay these lawyers.”

That said, she added that if the Ministry of Justice seeks to bring in organisations to work with the Ministry, the Icelandic Red Cross may indeed apply, depending on what the Ministry needs.

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