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Deportation of Albanian Asylum Seekers Sparks Controversy

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Deportation of Albanian Asylum Seekers Sparks Controversy

Keflavik International Airport

Keflavík International Airport. Photo: Zoë Robert.

Controversy has surrounded the decision by the Directorate of Immigration to deny the applications for asylum of two Albanian families. The two families, along with other asylum seekers, were picked up by police officers in the early morning hours of December 10 to be transported to Keflavík Airport, where an airplane from Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, awaited them and flew them back to Albania.

The reason the two families have received more attention than others is that in each of them, there is a terminally ill young boy, one suffering from a heart condition, the other from cystic fibrosis. The deportation of one of the families in the darkness of night was caught on video, causing social media to respond harshly.

There, a petition was posted calling for the resignation of Minister for the Interior Ólöf Nordal, unless the families are invited to return. Another petition asks the minister to revoke the directorate’s decision, since the Albanian healthcare system would, the petition states, not provide the boys with adequate care.

In his weekly newsletter last Friday, Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson states, “The Directorate of Immigration and the Ministry for the Interior need to clean up their act. Don’t we have the duty in every case to assess whether asylum should be granted based on humanitarian grounds?”

The Directorate of Immigration has defended its position by saying that in order to obtain asylum, people must be in some sort of danger and not enjoy sufficient protection in their home country. “Financial circumstances do not involve imminent danger. Thus, such circumstances do not constitute the basis for protection,” a statement from the directorate reads.

The website of the directorate states:

“According to the provisions of the Act on Foreigners, which reflects the UN Refugee Convention, persons who are subject to persecution in their home country or face the risk of capital punishment, torture or inhumane or degrading treatment or penalty, have the right to asylum as refugees in Iceland. An asylum seeker, who is not deemed to be a refugee, may be granted residence permit on humanitarian grounds provided strong arguments recommend this, such as serious illness or difficult circumstances in the home country.”

The website describes Albania as follows:

“Albania is, among other things, a member state of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Human rights are generally honored by the authorities, and both local and foreign human rights organizations have operated there without hindrance.”

So far this year, 25 percent of those who have applied for protection in Iceland have been granted their request, Vísir reports. Never before have so many people applied for protection in Iceland; a total of 309 applications have been received this year. The largest proportion of applicants is from Albania, or 34 percent. Applications from Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia make up close to half of all applications this year. Close to ten percent of applicants come from Syria, six percent from Iraq, 4 percent from Iran and 2 percent form Palestine. Elsewhere in Europe, however, most individuals seeking protection come from Syria and war-ridden countries in the Middle East.

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