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More than 1,000 Asylum Seekers

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More than 1,000 Asylum Seekers

Syrian refugees on the border of Lebanon, 2014

Syrian refugees. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The number of asylum seekers to arrive in Iceland this year reached 1,000 on Sunday, RÚV reports. That’s almost triple the number for all of last year.

Numerous people have arrived in Iceland by air from Budapest on Wednesdays and Sundays. On average, 40-60 individuals a month have applied for asylum in Iceland this year. In September, the number of applications soared to 176. In October, that number was 201, and so far in November, no fewer than 247 have applied. “A very large proportion comes from the western Balkan countries, such as Albania, and in particular from Macedonia in November,” explained Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, division manager at the Directorate of Immigration.

Those who came from Macedonia in November made up 73 percent of the applicants this month. The reasons for that can be many, Þorsteinn remarked. “It can be an economic situation. Some sort of rumor that starts about what can be expected once they come to the country.”

Housing for asylum seekers is a problem, and service for families, especially those with children, has had to be reduced. Between 600 and 700 asylum seekers stay in housing provided by the Directorate of Immigration. On top of that, about 200 people are housed by municipalities. Yet others find their own housing.

Increasingly, Þorsteinn reports, asylum seekers, especially those from the western Balkan countries, withdraw their applications and decide to return to their home country. The number of applications from those countries has gone down somewhat in recent days and weeks. “We believe there is a connection between that and the fact that we’ve started employing expulsion and a ban on reentry,” Þorsteinn stated.

According to information from the Directorate of Immigration, if an application for asylum is registered in the Schengen Area system and is rejected by the Directorate, then the applicant risks being expelled and denied reentry for a minimum of two years, not only to Iceland, but to all 26 European states that make up the Schengen Area.

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