As reported, all of these people were rounded up by police under cover of night and have been deported to Greece, despite condemnations from the Icelandic Red Cross that deporting people to this country is inhumane, given the conditions that even those granted international protection are forced to endure.
The conservative claim
As Icelandic law expressly prohibits deporting anyone to a place where their life may be in danger or where they may be “subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment,” (Article 42 of the Law on Foreigners), those defending the deportations have tried to paint a different picture of the reality of refugees in Greece. Bryndís Haraldsdóttir, an MP for the Independence Party, stated on RÚV last night that people who have received international protection in Greece are not living on the street.
This is false. A report from the Red Cross states that even amongst those granted international protection, “the homelessness of refugees in Greece is a significant problem. There is an overwhelming chance that those deported to Greece will be homeless or live in unacceptable conditions”.
This has been backed up by lawyers the Grapevine has spoken to, one of whom characterised the situation as “protection without protection”.
“All the documents and reports we have, and have submitted to the Icelandic authorities, show that most recognised refugees with protection in Greece live on the streets,” lawyer Albert Björn Lúðvígsson told us at the time. “We call it ‘protection without protection’.”
“Exactly like a prison”
It also bears pointing out that applying for “protection in Greece” is done under duress. The Grapevine spoke with two asylum seekers from Palestine last year, who told us that while they had no intention of settling in Greece, they were effectively forced to apply for international protection in that country.
“As soon as we landed, we were told ‘You have two choices,’” one explained. “‘You either claim asylum here, or you get sent back to Turkey.’ We took the asylum. We didn’t know what else to do. We got put in an isolated camp, fenced in and surrounded by armed guards, police or the military. It’s exactly like a prison.”
Being granted “international protection” in Greece, they said, offers nothing in terms of being able to have a normal life.
“In most European countries, when you get a residence permit, you get a chance to learn the language, integrate with society, learn about the culture—we had none of that,” another said. “We were secluded all the time. Even after we got the permit, we had no idea what to do or where to go, we got no information.”
One may return
One of those deported to Greece may be returning to Iceland, RÚV reports.
Hussein, whose deportation caught national attention because while he uses a wheelchair, he was sent to Greece without one, still has his case pending in the Icelandic court system. This, by the way, is the case for many of those deported from Iceland.
As it is unlikely he will be able to testify by phone from Greece when his case comes up, the Icelandic state may be obliged to bring him back to Iceland to give his testimony. This is likely to be determined this afternoon.
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