U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Iceland

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Iceland , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e1643.html [accessed 16 October 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Iceland hosted 41 asylum seekers and refugees at the end of 2000. These included 24 refugees admitted from Croatia (the Krajina Region), one person granted asylum, eight persons granted permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, and eight asylum seekers with pending claims.

Because of its geographic isolation, Iceland receives few asylum seekers. In 2000, 24 individuals submitted asylum applications, including persons from the Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Romania.

During the year, the authorities issued 27 first-instance decisions and, in January, granted asylum for the first time. The applicant was from Congo-Kinshasa. Iceland granted humanitarian status to eight persons, six of whom were granted the status on appeal.

Resettled Refugees

Iceland agreed to resettle up to 30 "quota" refugees during 2000; however, only 24 arrived. They were all from the Krajina Region of Croatia, and most were in ethnically mixed families. After a brief period in Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, the families moved to their new homes in the village of Siglufjordur in northern Iceland.

The Icelandic Red Cross plays a central role in refugee resettlement, as it conducts annual missions to select candidates for resettlement, in coordination with the ministries of foreign affairs, justice, and social affairs.

The social affairs ministry announces the need for municipalities willing to receive refugees. The federal government provides financial grants to those municipalities, while the Red Cross and the Refugee Council within the Social Affairs Ministry develops individualized adjustment programs for the refugees. Generally, each refugee or family is matched with three local families who act as sponsors and introduce the refugees to Icelandic language and culture. Refugees are immediately granted work permits and are assisted in finding jobs. During the first year, refugees receive subsidized housing, vocational training, and Icelandic language lessons. Refugees have access to the same medical care and educational institutions as Icelandic nationals.

Asylum Procedure

Iceland has acceded to the UN Refugee Convention. Although no national refugee legislation exists, Iceland has procedures for granting asylum under the 1965 Aliens Law.

The Directorate of Immigration is responsible for processing asylum claims. Police and customs officials monitor the borders and control entry to the country. Under Icelandic law, border officials must consult the directorate before denying entry to individuals arriving without valid visas or passports.

The Icelandic Red Cross covers all expenses for asylum seekers awaiting a decision at the directorate. The Red Cross provides accommodation, clothing, medical care, and a weekly financial allowance to asylum seekers. The directorate usually issues a decision on an asylum application within three to nine months. The justice ministry considers appeals of asylum decisions.

Kosovo Albanians

In 1999, Iceland admitted 75 Kosovo Albanians under the humanitarian evacuation program (HEP). Initially, the authorities planned to offer the Kosovars temporary protection but eventually decided to grant them permanent residence. The HEP evacuees become eligible for Icelandic citizenship after five years of residence.

By year's end, 37 Kosovo Albanians admitted under the HEP had voluntarily repatriated to Kosovo (31 persons in 1999 and 6 in 2000). Iceland covered transportation costs and provided a grant equivalent to $1,100 (100,000 Icelandic Crowns) to each repatriating adult. The Icelandic Red Cross also provided returning Kosovo Albanians with material assistance.

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