Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, the Icelandic Parliamentary Ombudsman (Althingi Ombudsman) reported there are no dedicated immigration detention centres in the country (previously, reports from the Council of Europe going back as far as 1998 have indicated that prisons or police stations are used for this purpose). Thus, the Ombudsman did not […]
Last updated: September 2012
EXCERPT FROM :
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Icelandic Government on the visit to Iceland carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 18 to 24 September 2012,” Council of Europe, 5 September 2013, pp. 13-15. Available at: https://rm.coe.int/1680696c40
B. Persons detained under aliens legislation
26. The legal framework governing the detention of foreign nationals who are illegally present in Iceland was described in the report on the 2004 visit. Pursuant to Section 29 of the Act on Foreigners, foreign nationals whose identity needs to be clarified may be placed in police custody for up to 24 hours, and subsequently detained for up to 12 weeks by judicial decision. Under Section 33 of the same Act, a foreign national may be detained by judicial decision for a maximum of 6 weeks, if this is necessary in order to enforce a removal order.
27. At the outset of the visit, the delegation was informed that persons detained by judicial decision pursuant to Sections 29 or 33 of the Act on Foreigners were placed in prisons, where they were accommodated together with other inmates. The delegation met certain foreign nationals falling within this category when visiting Skólavörðustígur, Kópavogur and Litla-Hraun Prisons.
In the reports on its previous visits to Iceland, the CPT stressed that, if it is deemed necessary to deprive persons of their liberty under aliens legislation, it would be far preferable to accommodate them in a centre specifically designed for that purpose, offering material conditions and a regime appropriate to their legal status and staffed by suitably qualified personnel. In this context, the delegation was informed by the Director of Immigration that she had already requested that such a centre be set up. The plan was to build a facility with an open reception centre and a closed wing with a capacity of approximately 80 places. The Minister of the Interior was in favour of the idea and it was his intention to present relevant legal amendments to the Act on Foreigners in the near future. The CPT would like to receive updated information on this subject, including as regards the design, capacity, regime and staff complement of the new centre.
28. As regards safeguards against ill-treatment offered to foreign nationals detained under aliens legislation, the situation continued to be generally satisfactory and no complaints were received on these issues from the foreign nationals interviewed by the delegation in the prisons visited.
Further, the delegation was pleased to note that foreign nationals were now offered free legal aid throughout the procedure and not only at the stage of appeal against the decision on their case. It is also noteworthy that persons apprehended by the police at Keflavík International Airport were provided with an information sheet on their rights. In case of need, interpretation was assured (in person or by telephone) during the period of detention by the airport police.
29. Conditions of detention at Keflavik International Airport Police Station could be described as satisfactory. Persons detained there, for periods not exceeding a few hours and, in any case, never overnight, were accommodated in a spacious, well lit and ventilated room equipped with a table, chairs and benches, as well as a TV/video set and some toys. Access to the adjoining toilet was granted upon request.
30. As already stressed in the past, the CPT attaches considerable importance to the manner in which removal orders concerning foreign nationals are enforced in practice. In this context, the delegation was informed by the National Commissioner of Police that removals by air under escort were organised once or twice per week, involving one to three foreign nationals each time. This included two to three Joint Return Operations (co-ordinated by Frontex) per month, in which Iceland was a Participating Member State.
In the report on the 2004 visit, the CPT recommended that detailed instructions be issued on the procedure to be followed and, more particularly, on the use of force and/or means of restraint authorised in the context of removal operations. The CPT is pleased to note that such an Instruction was issued by the National Commissioner of Police in February 2006. The Instruction specifies the authorised means of restraint in the course of removal (i.e. handcuffs and a “travel belt” with attached handcuffs) and requires the police to offer the person concerned food and drink, as well as ready access to a toilet during the flight. Administration of medication is only permitted on medical grounds and upon a doctor’s order. If required by the circumstances, the escort team should include a nurse or a doctor. After each operation, a detailed report must be drawn up and sent to the Ministry of the Interior, with copies for the Directorate of Immigration and the Icelandic Red Cross.
The CPT welcomes the adoption of these instructions. However, the Committee has noted the absence of a formal monitoring mechanism for removals by air; it recommends that such a mechanism be set up. Further, the Icelandic authorities acknowledged that there was the need for specialised training for members of escort teams; the CPT recommends that such training be organised as a matter of priority.
In addition, the Committee recommends that Instruction No. 2003070104 be completed by adding the requirement of a medical examination of the person concerned after any failed removal attempt.
The CPT would also like to be informed whether the current removal procedure foresees an obligation for a doctor, prior to the beginning of a removal operation, to examine the person concerned and to issue a “fit to fly” certificate.
Further, the Committee would like to receive clarification as to whether the above- mentioned Instruction remains applicable after the handover of the person concerned to the escorts of the Organising Member State (in the case of Joint Return Operations co-ordinated by Frontex).