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Isolation Affects Asylum Seekers

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Isolation Affects Asylum Seekers

Esja.

Esja mountain. Víðines is located in that area. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Food is served almost cold, hygiene is lacking, soap or paper towels are lacing by sinks, and there is damage from moisture. These are among observations made by the Public Health Authority regarding Víðines, a building in Kjalarnes, near Reykjavík, where the Directorate of Immigration has a permit to house up to 100 asylum seekers. Currently, 70 males reside there, RÚV reports. Numerous complaints have been issued about limited transportation to the building, but only one ride is offered each day to and from the nearest bus stop, close to an hour’s walk away.

The Directorate of Immigration does not plan to increase transportation to the building.

The simplest way to solve the problems of asylum seekers at Víðines is to provide more frequent transportation to the area, Áshildur Linnet, project manager with the Red Cross, told RÚV.

Sema Erla Serdar, head of Solaris, an aid organization for asylum seekers, believes social isolation is the asylum seekers’ main problem. “They’re socially isolated; they have limited access to services, essential service and other.”

Áshildur agrees that the lack of transportation is a large part of the problem. “It makes people experience this isolation very intensely, and they get the feeling they’re being excluded from the community.” She believes the problem is not the building itself, but its distance from all services.

Sema would like the location of accommodation for asylum seekers reconsidered. “It doesn’t work to place many of them somewhere inside a building far from everything. So, the responsibility lies not only with those who arrive, but also in how we receive people. And we ought to do much better than this.”

The Public Health Authority first inspected the Víðines building on February 17 and again on March 17. Improvements to hygiene had been made the second time, albeit not everywhere in the building. Requests were sent to the Directorate of Immigration to ensure cleaning schedules were followed, that soap and paper towels were provided and moisture damages fixed.

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