Two asylum seekers were forcefully removed by police from Laugarneskirkja church early this morning, after the minister had offered them sanctuary. The bishop of Iceland laments that asylum seekers have no place they can call sanctuary.
Laugarneskirkja church opened its doors after midnight to two Iranian asylum seekers, referring to the old tradition of churches serving as sanctuaries. The asylum seekers have been in Iceland for seven months without their cases having been processed. One of them is only 16 years old.
Kristín Þórunn Tómasdóttir, minister at Laugarneskirkja, told RÚV the men will be sent to Norway, from where they will most likely be sent to the southern part of Iraq, despite an international agreement which specifies that asylum seekers not be sent back to their home country.
“Our goal,” she stated, “is to try to put pressure on and to reach the ears of those who truly are in power and who shape policy and work methods regarding foreigners in Iceland and those who seek international protection here.” She would like to see the law and the work methods revised.
Kristín reported that a group of people had gathered in the church overnight and that they were shocked to see the asylum seekers removed with force.
Bishop of Iceland Agnes B. Sigurðardóttir told RÚV she understands the law must be followed, but she is saddened by the fact that refugees have no place they can call sanctuary, not even a church. “I think this is in fact terrible news, that there is no sanctuary for people who can’t live in their own country,” she lamented.