Teenage Asylum Seekers Given Prison Sentence For False Passports

Two Algerian boys, aged 15 and 16, were sentenced to 30 days in prison by Icelandic authorities for arriving with false passports. The Government Agency for Child Protection said such a sentence would never be handed down to an Icelandic child for the same crime.

RÚV reports that the two boys arrived at Keflavík International Airport on April 25. Passport control questioned the validity of their passports, and they turned out to be falsified. The two boys confessed, saying they were seeking asylum in Iceland. On April 30, they were sentenced to 30 days in prison.

Bragi Guðbrandsson, director of the Government Agency for Child Protection, said that the sentence came as a surprise to him. "If these were Icelandic children, giving them prison sentences for document forgery wouldn't even be considered," he said. He added that while children under 18 in Iceland have been given prison sentences, this has been for repeated and violent offences.

The boys were in jail in Kelfavík for three days before his organisation and the Icelandic Prison Authority stepped in, and have since had the boys transferred to more appropriate confines.

Bragi also points out that the sentence violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children who are seeking asylum in another country have already experienced hardship, and a prison sentence does not help matters, he said. He recommends rather that the children be welcomed to Iceland. 

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