From Iceland — Increased Rates Of Homelessness Anticipated Due To Refugee Policy

Increased Rates Of Homelessness Anticipated Due To Refugee Policy

Published August 14, 2023

Photo by
Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

Magnús Davíð Norðdahl, lawyer of Blessing Newton – one of the refugees evicted in Hafnarfjörður last week – anticipates increased rates of homelessness due to the government’s current refugee policy.

In the capital area, 30 asylum seekers are now homeless and without social support following implementation of the new law on foreigners passed by Alþingi in March. A total of 53 individuals have been deprived of material support. Ten people have returned to their home country on their own accord.

No flaws in the new law

Minister of Justice and MP for the Independence Party Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir sees no flaws in the foreigner law, RÚV reports. The main contention arises when bilateral agreements are not in place, as in the case of Blessing Newton, whose home country is Nigeria. In those cases, Icelandic authorities cannot force people to return to the country from which they fled.

Chairman of Alþingi‘s General and Education Committee Bryndís Haraldsdóttir, also an MP for the Independence Party, said to RÚV that people are able to acquire the necessary documents to leave the country on their own accord – with government assistance.

As it stands, 80% of the 53 individuals who were denied government assistance have declined to leave the country.

A bureaucratic black hole

During the bill debate in March, Minister of Social Affairs Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, a Left-Green Movement MP, said municipalities could utilise the law on social service to help out refugees.

The law in question authorises municipalities to assist tourists or foreigners in need. In cases where they cannot leave the country – for example, due to lost or destroyed travel documents – municipalities can step in to provide accommodation until the situation has been resolved.

Guðmundur Ingi believes this is the appropriate recourse in today‘s situation – despite being more costly than the government support that was in place for asylum seekers prior to the enactment of the new law on foreigners.

Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson cannot recall an agreement between the state and the municipality. It would be a historic first if refugees were to be left homeless by the state and become the city‘s responsibility, he said to RÚV.

The refugees evicted August 11 were not aware of available counteraction, RÚV states.




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