From Iceland — Asylum Seekers Rounded Up, Arrested En Masse, And Deported To Greece

Asylum Seekers Rounded Up, Arrested En Masse, And Deported To Greece

Published November 3, 2022

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

A group of asylum seekers from Iraq and Palestine were arrested en masse, three of them placed in custody at Hólmsheiði prison, and then were taken by bus with a heavy police presence to Keflavík International Airport to be deported to Greece. This is despite many of them still waiting on a court ruling on their cases, and also includes the deportation of a family–despite the Minister of Justice promising last May that no families would be deported to Greece.

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RÚV reports that despite their applications for international protection still awaiting a ruling in court, three were arrested during the week and taken to Hólmsheiði prison. Police furthermore went to a youth centre in Hafnarfjörður to take one of them into custody.

Lawyers for the asylum seekers have been baffled by this treatment. By law, asylum seekers may be placed in custody for up to two weeks if less restrictive methods are insufficient and there is considered a real danger that the asylum seekers in question will try to flee deportation.

Under cover of night

In the early morning hours, three buses were spotted at the Directorate of Immigration in Hafnarfjörður–two filled with police officers and one empty. These buses were used to round up the asylum seekers from a hotel in Hafnarfjörður that houses asylum seekers and take them to Keflavík International Airport for deportation to Greece.

Reporters went to the airport in an attempt to cover the deportation. Upon arrival, employees of Isavia–the company which operates the airport–shined highbeams at reporters in an effort to conceal what was happening. This, it turned out, was done at the behest of the police.

Family deported to Greece, despite promise of Justice Minister

Amongst those deported was also a family of five originally from Iraq. They have been living in Iceland for two years, and one of them needs to use a wheelchair. However, he does not own this wheelchair, so part of his deportation included being lifted out of the wheelchair and placed in a car with police without it, as can be seen in the video below:

Just last May, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson promised that no family would be deported to Greece.

Deportations to Greece contravene law

The Grapevine has reported on numerous occasions that deportations to Greece are in contravention of the law. The Icelandic Red Cross has issued a detailed report 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.

Furthermore, 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.”

Claudia Ashanie, a human rights lawyer, has found the matter bizarre, telling Fréttablaðið: “I ask: where are we headed? Is this the humanitarian outlook that we consider to be the guiding light when people apply for protection in Iceland?”

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