Young Asylum Seekers Appeal Verdict

The two Moroccan boys, who were arrested upon their arrival to the country in April for presenting falsified passports, appealed the verdict over them this week. They claim to be 15 and 16 years old.
Reykjanesbær, where asylum seekers are accommodated. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Their lawyer, Ragnar Aðalsteinsson, said there are various items he wants to try out in court, especially whether his clients are protected by the 31th article of the United Nations Refugee Treaty, Fréttablaðið reports.

According to the article, people who submit themselves to authorities are to enjoy protection. If the verdict falls in his clients’ favor, Ragnar said it will have set a precedent in Iceland.
The affair of the young asylum seekers has raised controversy in the country.
The Icelandic legal council of UNICEF released a statement on May 10 urging Icelandic authorities to respect the United Nations treaties on children’s rights and refugees.
“I find that we are little primitive when it comes to this issue and the debate is often prejudgemental; there are extremes to one way or the other,” said director of the Directorate of Immigration Kristín Völundardóttir in an interview with Fréttablaðið on May 22.
“There has never been an actual discussion on asylum seekers and how we should receive them. Or react towards foreign citizens in general,” she added. She is calling for a clear policy on the issue from the authorities.
The Directorate of Immigration is primarily an institute that provides services to foreign citizens in relation with residence permits and visas, Kristín said.
“But we are also the outpost of the Icelandic welfare community. If we take arbitrary decisions and intend to grant everyone asylum or residence permit without a legal authorization we will fill up the welfare system of people who in fact we cannot offer a decent life,” she added.
An unusually high number of asylum seekers, 89 people, are currently awaiting a conclusion on their applications.
Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson has suggested that the Directorate of Immigration be granted ISK 7.7 million (USD 59,000, EUR 47,000) in addition funding to deal with the situation.
The number of asylum seekers increases year by year. The first four months of 2012, 27 people requested asylum in Iceland, which is an 80 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
“We might be facing an explosion [in the number of asylum seekers] and are in no way prepared for that. We would have to implement the civil protection department, open up schools, among other measures,” Kristín stated.
“There is no reaction plan for a scenario where one hundred people apply for asylum during the same period,” she iterated.
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