Iceland

Not Available

Immigration detainees

2019

Not Available

Detained children

2017

1,483

New asylum applications

2019

894

Refugees

2019

52,404

International migrants

2019

Overview

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

25 August 2020

Online Page of the Icelandic Parliamentary Ombudsman, (Parliamentary Ombudsman, Website of the Ombudsman, accessed on 24 August 2020, https://www.umbodsmadur.is/)
Online Page of the Icelandic Parliamentary Ombudsman, (Parliamentary Ombudsman, Website of the Ombudsman, accessed on 24 August 2020, https://www.umbodsmadur.is/)

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 provide answers to questions relating to the release of immigration detainees and “alternatives to detention” programmes in place in the country.

There are currently four reception centres in Iceland. Responding to questions about previous reports from the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture about plans for building new dedicated reception facilities, the Ombudsman said that to their knowledge, the facility proposed in 2012 CPT correspondence had not been built. The source said that at one reception centre, there is a “closed” hallway where residents in the hallway may go out as they please, but not everyone can go in. The reception centres are “open” in the sense that no-one is forced to stay there. During the day, people can enter and exit the centres, but they are closed during the night. Applicants for international protection stay in a reception centre when they first arrive in Iceland. According to the source, “single applicants are then often provided with a room in one of the centres with access to kitchen and bathroom facilities” whereas “families can be provided with an apartment to stay in.”

According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, arriving asylum seekers may be tested for Covid-19 in accordance with the procedure applicable at any given time. The procedures vary depending on the evolution of the spread of Covid-19. The Ombudsman said that if an applicant for international protection is unable to finance their stay while the application is being processed, services and assistance are provided by the Directorate of Immigration, Social Services of Reykjavik or the municipalities of Reykjanesbaer and Hafnarfjarðarbær. The services granted are based on service agreements between the municipalities and the Directorate of Immigration. According to the agreements, the applicant is guaranteed housing, meals, and other basic services such as medical service, schooling, kindergarten, leisure activities, and travel within the municipality. The Directorate of Immigration decides which municipality will provide services to the applicant, taking into account their needs and the capability of the municipality to provide the service.

As of 19 August 2020, all arriving people have the option of a 14-day quarantine or a double testing procedure along with a quarantine for 5-6 days. The double border-screening procedure requires all passengers arriving in Iceland to undergo two tests: one upon arrival and another 5-6 days later to minimise the risks of spreading the virus. Those who test negative in the second test are no longer required to take special precautions. However, those who test positive must self-isolate. Alternatively, arriving passengers can choose to stay in a 14-day quarantine without undergoing any tests. Children born in 2005 and later are exempt from the double border-screening procedure.

Asylum seekers are tested for free at the start of their stay in Iceland in a special quarantine house operated by the government. They stay there while the tests are being carried out and until it is confirmed that they are not infected. They are then placed in other housing units by the Directorate of Immigration.

As regards removals, the Ombudsman stated that no specific decision had been taken by the government. However, due to the Covid-19 crisis and the closing of airports and borders, removals could not take place as normal. Most removals in Iceland are based on the Dublin Regulation or are cases concerning persons that have already received international protection in other countries. So, when possible, applicants have been removed to countries that had their borders open: mostly Nordic countries and a few other countries.

The Ombudsman also reported that Iceland had implemented travel restrictions imposed for the Schengen Area and the European Union. As of 20 March 2020, foreign nationals, except EU/EEA, EFTA or UK nationals were not allowed to enter Iceland unless they could demonstrate that their travel was essential. The travel restrictions did not apply to essential travel, including, inter alia, health and care workers on professional travel, transportation crews (airlines and freighters), individuals requiring international protection, individuals traveling because of acute family incidents, diplomats, international organisation staff, members of armed forces, and individuals requiring international protection.

Furthermore, the Regulation on Foreigners was amended and a temporary provision was inserted. The provision stipulates that foreign nationals in Iceland who are unable to return to their home countries due to travel restrictions, quarantine, or isolation are allowed to stay in Iceland without a residence permit or visa. This has been amended and currently applies until 10 September 2020. The provision does not apply to non-citizens who were staying irregularly in the country before 20 March 2020 and does not prevent removal on that or other basis in accordance with the provisions of the Foreign Nationals Act. The Ombudsman said that the fact there are no direct flights to an applicants’ home country, high travel costs or other inconveniences of travelling now are not grounds for being allowed to stay in Iceland without a residence permit or visa.

Moreover, the Directorate of Immigration informed the Ministry of Justice in March that it would reconsider whether to process asylum cases of people in Dublin procedures or who have been granted protection in another country if it is impossible to remove people and time limits are pressing. The assessment is to be based on whether, on the one hand, the case procedure is expected to exceed those time limits due to travel restrictions and, on the other hand, whether the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the infrastructure of the receiving state is such that the individual assessment of the conditions in the state would have to be revised once travel restrictions are lifted.


Last updated:

IMMIGRATION AND DETENTION-RELATED STATISTICS

Total number of immigration detainees by year
Not Available
2019
Total number of detained minors
Not Available
2017
Number of apprehensions of non-citizens
Not Available
2018
30
2009
Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)
Not Available
2018
15
2009
Criminal prison population
124
2016
152
2013
Percentage of foreign prisoners
16.9
2016
Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
37
2016
47
2013
Population
300,000
2020
329,000
2015
International migrants
52,404
2019
37,500
2015
International migrants as a percentage of the population
11.4
2015
Refugees
894
2019
573
2018
375
2017
179
2016
179
2015
99
2014
Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
0.76
2016
0.3
2014
Total number of new asylum applications
1,483
2019
1,075
2016
170
2014
Refugee recognition rate
20
2014
Stateless persons
69
2018
85
2017
131
2016
119
2015

SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)
52,004
2014
Remittances to the country
216
2014
Unemployment Rate
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
16 (Very high)
2015

DOMESTIC LAWS AND POLICIES

Legal tradition
Civil law
2017
Core pieces of national legislation
Act on Foreigners ()
Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law.
42
2018
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order
1
2012
Provision of basic procedural standards
Right to legal counsel () Yes
2012
Types of non-custodial measures
Designated non-secure housing (Yes) infrequently
2014
Supervised release and/or reporting (Yes) Yes
2014
Registration (deposit of documents) (Yes) infrequently
2014
Release on bail (No) No
2014
Electronic monitoring (No) No
2014

INTERNATIONAL LAW

International treaty reservations
Reservation Year
Observation Date
CRC Article 37 2015
2015
2015
ICCPR Article 10 1979
1979
1979
Individual complaints procedure
Acceptance Year
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 1999 2001
2001
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention 1987
1987
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 1979
1979
ICERD, declaration under article 14 of the Convention 1967
1967
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted
Observation Date
4/5
4/5
Regional legal instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
CPCSE, Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse 2012
2012
ECPT, European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment 1990
1990
CATHB, Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2012
2012
ECHRP1, Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (amended by protocol 11) 1953
1953
ECHRP7, Protocol 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights (amended by protocol 11) 1987
1987
ECHR, Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (commonly known as the European Convention on Human Rights 1953
1953
Bilateral/multilateral agreements linked to readmission
Year in Force
Observation Date
Denmark 1957
1957
2017
Estonia 1997
1997
2017
Finland 1957
1957
2017
Latvia 1997
1997
2017
Lithuania 1997
1997
2017
Sweden 1957
1957
2017
Norway 1957
1957
2017
Albania 2010
2010
2017
Ukraine 2013
2013
2017
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2011
2017
No 2016
2017

INSTITUTIONAL INDICATORS