So far this year, six women from Nigeria, who are either pregnant or with children, have applied for asylum in Iceland. According to Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, acting director of the Directorate of Immigration, their applications are being processed, along with that of a seventh Nigerian woman.
Laugardalur, Reykjavík. Archive photo by Páll Kjartansson.
The women were either stopped at Keflavík International Airport or came forward once in the country. Some of them carried fake IDs, Morgublaðið reports.
“They don’t have other rights than those of other asylum seekers. We always try to provide services that are suitable for the needs of each individual. But when decisions are made which regard children, they are made with their interests in mind in compliance with the United Nations Children’s Rights Treaty,” Þorsteinn explained.
However, arriving with children or giving birth to children in Iceland doesn’t automatically result in residence permits, Þorsteinn added. “Children follow their parents so if the parent has a legal domicile elsewhere or is to be accommodated in a different place, the child must accompany the parent.”
The asylum seekers are provided with services in accordance with an agreement between the Directorate of Immigration and Reykjanesbær, among other municipalities.
“In all cases, people are guaranteed access to healthcare and medical services according to their needs. If a woman is pregnant and her due date is approaching, she will be provided with respective services,” Þorsteinn stated.
One of the Nigerian women has already given birth in Iceland.
Ombudsman for Children Margrét María Sigurðardóttir told Morgunblaðið that children born in Iceland don’t automatically obtain citizenship as in some other countries.
Þorsteinn said one of the things the Directorate of Immigration will look into is whether the women really are the mothers of the children whom they brought with them to the country, adding that in these cases there is nothing that indicates otherwise.
The direct cost for the Icelandic state for servicing one asylum seeker for one year is approximately ISK 2.6 million (USD 22,000, EUR 17,000).
There has been a surge in asylum seeker arrivals in Iceland this year. In mid-July 37 individuals had applied for asylum in the country since January 1, 2012, compared with 22 applications in the same period in 2011.
Immigration director Kristín Völundardóttir has predicted that applications might number around 100 by the end of this year.
In 2009, 14 applications for asylum were received in a 12-month period, 22 in 2010 and 44 in 2011. The Directorate of Immigration’s lawyer who is solely responsible for the affairs of asylum seekers can process two applications per month.
The directorate has been subject to criticism for a slow evaluation of applications. A number of asylum seekers have attempted to leave the country by sea or air in recent months.
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