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Final verdict in asylum seeker COVID test row

18.06.2021 - 11:10
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 Mynd: RÚV
The immigration complaints committee this week overturned the Útlendingastofnun (Directorate of Immigration) decision to refuse asylum seekers housing and food stipends if they refuse PCR tests following a deportation decision. The news was confirmed by Magnús D. Norðdahl, the lawyer of one of the people initially refused food and housing support several weeks ago.

“In the recent period, Útlendingastofnun has started refusing certain asylum seekers housing and food, and thereby throwing them out onto the streets. This has been done in instances where the asylum seeker in question has tried to avoid their own deportation by refusing to undergo COVID testing in the run up to their deportation,” Magnús says. “The COVID testing in these cases is connected solely to their deportation and is a required precursor for deportation to be possible.” 

People escaping dangerous situations 

He points out that asylum seekers are fleeing dangerous places and situations and are therefore unwilling to assist in their own deportation. “I have yet to meet the asylum seeker who tries to help with their own deportation,” Magnús adds. 

Tests part of deportation process 

Magnús says it is important to remember that the COVID-19 tests are not in any way connected to public health concerns, or any suspicion that the people involved have been exposed to the coronavirus. They are solely a procedural formality to allow the authorities to deport people, as receiving countries require testing before transport. 

No regard to asylum seekers’ point-of-view 

“We told Útlendingastofnun, and put this point-of-view very clearly at the fore, that we thought behaviour of this sort was illegal on behalf of the Directorate, and that they were not authorised to behave in this manner,” Magnús says. Útlendingastofnun did not take this point-of-view on board and refused asylum seekers their housing and food payments. Magnús says this has been done to a large number of asylum seekers. 

“Indictment of Útlendingastofnun” 

Magnús appealed the procedure to the immigration complaints committee on behalf of one of his clients. “The immigration complaints committee has now agreed with our point-of-view and overturned the decision of Útlendingastofnun. That of course is cause for celebration,” Magnús says.  

His client, and the close-to-20 others in the same position, according to Magnús, now have the right to food and shelter from Útlendingastofnun. “This is also an indictment of Útlendingastofnun which there acted, in our opinion, in an illegal and inhumane manner.” 

Final decision from the highest level 

Magnús says the decision means that asylum seekers have the right to shelter and food payments and that they can get them from Útlendingastofnun. “Útlendingastofnun cannot in the future start witholding people’s housing and food. This is the final decision at the public administration level, from the immigration complaints committee.” 

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