Iceland Reverses Course Freezes Out Rush of Venezuelan Migrants

EAGLE PASS, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 29: Under a full moon Venezuelan immigrants stand in line to
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Icelandic officials are pulling back on their former support for Venezuelan migrants, and deported 180 immigrants who had only recently arrived in the Nordic country.

The about face comes on the tail of moves by the Icelandic parliament to change policy on immigration to be more in line with that of other Nordic countries, according to Icelandic Monitor.

The bill was wildly popular – even among the left-wing Green Party – and among its internal provisions allows Iceland to ignore the U.N. and its open border-styled immigration policy demands.

The legislation reportedly sets stricter conditions for residency, family migration, and other measures.

With the mood shifting against Venezuelans, especially, authorities deported 180 recent Venezuelan migrants all at once. The deportations were carried out by Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration and the European border agency Frontex, according to Iceland Review.

The turnaround marks a major departure from recent policy that allowed Venezuelans near unquestioned asylum in Iceland. And the shift has been months in the making. Earlier this year, for example, the Immigration Appeals Board upheld several decisions by the Directorate of Immigration which ruled against asylum filings involving Venezuelans.

Advocates for Venezuelans, though, are protesting the country’s turn against them, arguing that conditions in Venezuela are no better now than they were a year ago, so the reversal of support by Iceland’s government is problematic.

But the number of Venezuelans trying to emigrate to Iceland has also exploded. In 2018, there were 14 such immigrants. But by 2022, that number had climbed for more than 1,200, Iceland Review added.

Human rights advocates, including Icelandic Red Cross, Amnesty International, and UNICEF, have stood in opposition to the change in the laws.

The bill, for instance, allows Iceland’s government to ignore human rights laws such as the U.N. Convention on Human Rights and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children, according to Reykjavik Grapevine.

The bill just passed also allows the government to deny services such as health care once 30 days have elapsed without an asylum application being approved.

At least one political party also opposed the bill. MP Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir, of the left-leaning libertarian Pirate Party, railed at the bill, saying, “There is a message being sent. That people should get out of the country or else risk being forced out on the street, without any assistance nor access to basic service.”

Still, the other major Icelandic parties, including the Independence Party, the Progressive Party, and the Left Greens, all voted in favor of the tightening of the country’s immigration policies.

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