Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson’s attempts to roll through legislation which would greatly restrict the rights and freedoms of people applying for international protection in Iceland, due to what he characterises as an “out of control” system, have been under intense scrutiny in recent days due to numerous contentious made by the Minister that are questionable at best.
These discussions have included both political scientists as well as people who work with asylum seekers themselves, who have accused the Minister of engaging in fearmongering and making false claims about the situation.
Eiríkur Bergmann, a professor in political science, told RÚV that people in positions of power have to be careful about how they speak of others in less powerful positions.
“There is of course a great responsibility that comes when people in positions of power, politicians, foment fear against people in a weaker position,” he said. “And refugees are probably the least powerful people who live on earth.”
Amongst the people who work with the people applying for international protection in Iceland is Atli Viðar Thorstensen, the department head of international affairs at the Red Cross. He says it has not been his experience that asylum seekers are abusing the system, contrary to what the Minister has contended, adding, “And I want to point out that Icelandic government institutions, the Directorate of Immigration and the Immigration Appeals Board, also disagree with the Minister’s contentions, because the vast majority of those who come here to apply for international protection get protection.”
Eiríkur added that the other Ministers who are not speaking up against Jón bear responsibility as well, saying, “They shouldn’t be in politics. Politics works with people expressing their positions on different matters, and if people are opposed to a policy that’s in the works, then it is the duty of politicians to stand up and take the stand that they were elected on.”
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