Alþingi passed a bill on international refugees Wednesday evening, with all members of the coalition government parties – the Independence Party, the Progressive Party and the Left Greens – voting in favour. All members of the Centrist Party and the People’s party also voted in favour, with all other members of the opposition voting against.
The bill is a controversial amendment to the current Foreign Nationals Act, which has been criticised for further eroding the human rights of refugees seeking international protection in Iceland. The bill absolves the Icelandic state of fulfilling international humanitarian laws such as the UN Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. Among other things, the bill permits Útlendingastofnun (the Directorate of Immigration) to deny basic services, such as health care, to applicants of international protection, once 30 days have lapsed since their application has been rejected.
A number of humanitarian organisations, including the Icelandic Red Cross, Amnesty International, and UNICEF in Iceland, have protested the amendment, criticising its legitimacy and effects on the state of human rights in Iceland.
Pirate Party MP Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir harshly criticised the bill’s passage, saying: “There is a message being sent. That people should get out of the country or else risk being forced out on the street, without any assistance nor access to basic service.”
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