The Icelandic Red Cross has issued a detailed report (.pdf) citing numerous sources that concludes, as has been done many times before, that deporting people to Greece, and children in particular, will send them to a life lived on the street with little to no access to housing, jobs or healthcare. Because of this, Iceland’s plan to deport some 300 people to Greece is in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Iceland’s own Law On Foreigners.
The report details that even in instances where someone has been granted international protection in Greece, “obstacles prevent people from fulfilling the necessary documentation prerequisites for accessing key rights such as health care, housing, social welfare and access to the labour market under equal conditions to nationals.” Children are sometimes not permitted to even leave camps, and have significant difficulty accessing education and health care.
Going against the laws
Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iceland has codified, does specifically state: “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.”
In addition, in Chapter 4 Article 36 of the Law on Foreigners, the second to last paragraph of this article 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 those granted international protection 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.”
The deportation plan has been highly contentious, with objections raised by the Red Cross, the parliamentary opposition, and even the Bishop of Iceland.
As it stands now, government ministers are not in full agreement over the plan, which falls under the auspices of Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarson. Minister of Social Affairs Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, a minister for the Left-Greens, has taken exception with the plan and believes more cases need to be examined, especially those involving children.
Time will tell if the government goes through with some or all of these deportations, with or without the law in consideration.
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