Iceland’s Controversial Immigration Bill

March 15, 2024

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson intents to pass a controversial immigration bill, that aims to make broad changes to the Law on Foreigners. This is the fifth time that the bill, originally crafted in 2016, is being submitted by the Independence Party.

Much of the debate around the bill revolves around article 8 of the new bill and its suggested changes to the so-called “12-month rule.” Certain loopholes in the bill seems to deny children their right to have their case heard if their parent or guardian violates the conditions of their visa. Critics state that this denies essential rights to children, and fear the bill may be abused in its current form.

The ibill aims to expand police powers, evoke compulsory medical procedures, and give veto rights to the chair and vice chair of the Immigration Appeals Board and other stipulations with severe restrictions on personal freedom. Some provisions included of the bill are designed to further restrict the rights of those applying for asylum, singling out particular nationalities.

Also the Immigration authorities have a duty to not send someone to a country where their life, security and liberty would be in danger against the fundamentals of international refugee law.

Jón Gunnarsson, Minister of Justice, says the new bill on foreigners, which he intends to speak in favour of, will simplify processes and make the system more flexible to process applications for international protection in Iceland. He says all three coalition parties approve of the bill and that he expects it to become law this spring.

The processing time for asylum applications is long and the number of applicants has doubled since the start of March and there are now 1,400 people with the right to such services. The justice minister says his new bill will bring Iceland more in line with immigration laws in the other Nordic countries.

The goal with this is to make the system more streamlined, and also to clarify the rules of play in place when a person’s case has been processed here and has had a legal attorney the whole time through the system and received a rejection, then that person must leave the country.” Exceptions to this guiding principle will be possible, among others for children and pregnant women.

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