While the government has reduced its numbers of planned deportations from about 300 to 200, many of them are still intended to be sent to Greece, Iraq, and Nigeria, including families and at least one man who uses a wheelchair.
Vísir reports that data from the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) shows that most of these people are originally from Iraq and Nigeria, and Greece is the intended destination for most of them. This includes two families that are intended to Greece, and Iraqi Sajjad Hussein, who uses a wheelchair.
As reported, 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. They consider deportations to Greece to therefore be unlawful.
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.”
Other deportation destinations for these people include Hungary–which regularly deports people to unsafe areas–Italy, Iraq and Nigeria. Many of these refugees have fled Nigeria and Iraq due to persecution and threats against their lives there, but ÚTL does not account for local discrepancies in safety; they judge both these countries as a whole to be “safe”.
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.”
Has made a life in Iceland
The aforementioned Sajjad and his family have lived in Iceland for a year and a half. They have been diligently learning Icelandic, and have at last found a safe life for themselves in Iceland.
“I’ve been to many countries and have met a lot of people, but I’ve never met people like the Icelanders,” mother of the family Maysoon Al Saedi told reporters. “I consider the Icelandic nation the best in the world. That’s why I want to live here.”
Sajjad says that if he and his family are sent to Greece, they will, like most others who are deported to Greece, end up on the street with no access to school, work or housing.
Árni Múli Jónasson, the director of Iceland’s National Association of People with Intellectual Disabilities, told Vísir that he is appalled by the deportation plan for the family.
“We consider this utterly indefensible,” he said. “Everyone who has familiarised themselves with conditions in Greece knows they are terrifyingly difficult for refugees in general, with all kinds of discrimination and hindrances for disabled people in general there.”
Protests at Parliament
Protests were held in front of Parliament last Saturday wherein these refugees, their supporters, Amnesty International and others are calling upon the government to halt all of these deportations altogether. One of the organisers, human rights activist Sema Erla Serdar, told reporters: “There is past precedent for individual cases to be taken into special consideration. The only thing that is needed to reverse this decision is the political will, which unfortunately does not appear to be present.”
Indeed, the government is divided on the matter of these deportations. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir of the Left-Greens told Vísir that while her policy on refugees in Iceland is clear, the government is comprised of three parties: her own, the Progressive Party and the Independence Party, to which Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson belongs, and he has staunchly defended these deportation plans.
When or if they will be carried out remains to be seen.
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