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Calls for Dedicated Asylum Seeker Center in Iceland

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Calls for Dedicated Asylum Seeker Center in Iceland

Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal.

Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Iceland needs a dedicated reception center for asylum seekers, according to acting head of the Directorate of Immigration, Þorsteinn Gunnarsson.

Such facilities are already in place in Iceland’s neighboring countries, he claims; adding that a reception center would be helpful in assessing the situation of those people entering Iceland.

“What is needed and is under consideration is to have just one entryway into the system where emphasis is placed on assessing asylum seekers’ situations … so it is possible to deal with them straight away in the appropriate manner,” Þorsteinn says.

Two asylum seekers, who are believed by Icelandic police to be a danger, are currently set to be deported to Denmark. The Supreme Court of Iceland had previously rejected requests to remand the pair in custody. One of the two has threatened violent acts, Vísir reported.

Þorsteinn points out that most asylum seekers are peaceful folk: “We strongly emphasize that these are people in a vulnerable position and who are suffering. In the vast majority of cases they are peaceful individuals who are minded to work with the authorities.” There are infrequent cases which are very challenging, however.

It is argued that one single, dedicated reception center would have all the facilities and expertise needed to deal effectively with vulnerable and peaceful asylum seekers, as well as the occasional challenging case.

The Ministry of the Interior is currently working on changes to asylum applications. “We are working on these issues daily and we have come a long way with improving the system for receiving asylum seekers,” says interior minister Ólöf Nordal (pictured).

According to the minister, the most important thing is making sure that procedures start immediately, as soon as asylum seekers arrive in Iceland. She wants to see them examined and assessed, both to ensure their own safety and that of wider society. There should also be special resources available to deal with any people deemed to be a threat, she says.

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