Iceland is intending to deport about 200 asylum seekers, including one man with a physical disability, according to media reports. Several organizations are protesting the plans to send people back to countries where they may face persecution or poor and inhuman living standards. The law might be on their side.
Iceland plans to go ahead with its plans to deport dozens of people from the Nordic country. The Icelandic government has reportedly reduced the number of planned deportations to 200 people, having originally planned to send up to 300 people away. However, there is criticism about the plans to deport the relatively small number of people.
Iceland's Vísir news platform quoted data from the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL), saying that most of the people pegged for deportation come from Iraq and Nigeria.
Most of them will be sent to Greece, as this has been established as the country where they first submitted their asylum requests.
Red Cross calls deportation plans 'unlawful'
The Icelandic Red Cross has expressed its concern about sending people to Greece, publishing a report that concludes that deporting asylum seekers to Greece would be detrimental to their wellbeing.
Quoting a report by Human Rights Watch, the Icelandic Red Cross decries "heavy-handed and often abusive immigration controls" in Greece, adding that children in particular would be likely to suffer from sub-standard treatment.
The Reykjavík Grapevine magazine meanwhile referred to a November 2020 report published by the Refugee Support Aegean NGO, which says that "(a) number of international and national courts have already held that the living conditions of asylum-seekers and recognised refugees alike in Greece are so dire that they are capable of amounting to 'inhuman or degrading treatment' under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 4 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, or Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and therefore prevent the return of persons to the country in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement."
Icelandic law prohibits deportation to dangerous countries
Other destinations that the asylum seekers are meant to be returned to include Hungary – a nation, which deports people to both Iraq and Nigeria.
According to the Reykjavík Grapevine, ÚTL deems those two countries to be safe countries of origin as well, despite the fact that many people flee from there because of various forms of persecution.
The publication adds that sending people to unsafe nations contravenes Icelandic law, citing Article 42 of the Law on Foreigners: "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."
Politics in the way of finding solutions
Scores of people held protests outside the Icelandic parliament (Althing) last Saturday (May 28), bringing together the asylum seekers who are affected by the government plans with supports, including rights group Amnesty International.
Fatima Mohamud, one of the protesters, told Vísir: "We are from Somalia, and there is a war raging there. There is no peace. We came to Greece from Somalia. Life in Greece is very difficult. We slept outside on the streets. There is no food, no accommodation. It is not peaceful there, and we do not want to be moved back there."
One of the organisers, human rights activist Sema Erla Serdar, told reporters outside Althing: "There is past precedent for individual cases to be taken into special consideration. The only thing that is needed to reverse this decision is the political will, which unfortunately does not appear to be present."
While Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is open to discussing a halt on deportations, one of her two coalition partners, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson, has repeatedly positioned himself in favor of deporting asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, there is no clear date set yet on when the deportations might take place. Fatima Mahomud says she was told to be prepared to be sent away at short notice: "We do not know exactly when but we are told we should be ready to return to Greece and be deported.
"We want the government to help us and give us the opportunity to live her."
With Reykjavík Grapevine, Vísir