Ólína Þorvarðardóttir, an MP for the Social Democrats, has suggested that the government should create a new ombudsman for refugees and asylum seekers.
She believes that the Directorate of Immigration does not have asylum seekers’ and refugees’ best interests at heart and that it is not ideal for the Ministry of the Interior to be paying the Icelandic Red Cross to look after their interests.
“I celebrate the idea of a special ombudsman for asylum seekers and refugees,” the Red Cross’s Atli Viðar Thorstensen says in reply; adding that such an institution could be a good addition to protecting their interests. “I also celebrate the interest shown by Members of Parliament and everyone else on this issue,” he told Vísir.
Atli rejects the idea, however, that asylum seekers and refugees are not well served by the contract between the Ministry of the Interior and the Red Cross. “It is a relatively new arrangement that lawyers are working in a team under the Red Cross. The United Nations Refugee Agency thinks it is a good arrangement.”
While the state used to appoint lawyers to individual cases, now all asylum and refugee cases are directed towards the Red Cross, which has assembled a team of lawyers.
Interior minister Ólöf Nordal sent a letter on Friday to the Red Cross and the Directorate of Immigration asking for more details about what happened in the controversial case of the Albanian family last week deported against the advice of the sick children’s Icelandic doctors.
Atli says the letter is very welcome and will give the Red Cross opportunity to give feedback and advice to the minister on how well the Icelandic authorities are standing up to Article 12 of the Act on Foreigners (2002).