From Iceland — Justice Ministry Attempts To Pass Sweeping Immigration Bill For Fifth Time

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson will try once again to pass a controversial bill that aims to make broad changes to the Law on Foreigners, RÚV reports, albeit with some revisions from the previous attempt.

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This will make the fifth time that the bill, originally crafted in 2016, is being submitted by the Independence Party.

As reported, the bill in question aims to expand police powers, evoke compulsory medical procedures, and give veto rights to the chair and vice chair of the Immigration Appeals Board, amongst other stipulations.

The revised bill will not include provisions related to COVID, but will still include expanded police powers, veto rights to the chair and vice chair of the Immigration Appeals Board, and severe restrictions on personal freedom. For example, Article 7 states that an appeal application for international protection will be terminated if not only an applicant, but also individuals connected to an applicant’s case, engage in “uncooperative behaviour” that cause delays in the processing of the case.

Attorney Claudia Ashanie Wilson with Claudia & Partners Legal Services told the Grapevine that many of the provisions included in this bill are designed to further restrict the rights of those applying for asylum, singling out particular nationalities.

“Immigration authorities have a duty to not send someone to a country where their life, security and liberty would be in danger,” she said in part. “You cannot make that assessment unless you examine the case on its merits. Classifying applications that have been withdrawn and resubmitted as a ‘repeat application’ creates a situation that could violate the principle of non-refoulement; that is, that you cannot send someone to a country where they face imminent danger. This is one of the fundamental principles of refugee law, and it’s something I fear the Icelandic government is ignoring with this bill.”

In addition, objections to this bill, in whole or in part, have been issued by Amnesty International, the Icelandic Red Cross, UN Women in Iceland, and the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, amongst others.

While the bill failed to pass last June and was withdrawn, the Minister did promise he would attempt to pass the bill again in the autumn session.

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