Icelandic police officers captured dragging two asylum seekers from a church that offered sanctuary

'Government policy seems to be to send these people away as if they were on a conveyor belt,' says Vicar Kristin Thorunn Tomasdottir

Matt Payton
Friday 01 July 2016 15:35
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Police drag asylum seekers from church providing sanctuary in Iceland

Icelandic police were captured on video dragging two asylum seekers from a church at midnight.

Iranian asylum seekers, Ali and Majeh, had been offered sanctuary by Langarnes church in the capital, Reykjavik.

The pair were standing behind the altar when the policemen dragged them down the aisle and out of the church.

Ali and Majeh were subsequently deported from Iceland to Norway in accordance to the terms of the EU's Dublin regulation.

Vicar Kristin Thorunn Tomasdottir told mlb.is: "The police came, we explained why we were there, and they explained that they had rules to follow and nothing would change that. Then they (the asylum seekers) were led, or dragged across the church floor.

"We have been reflecting on the methods used by the Iceland directorate of immigration and the views of the government concerning asylum seekers.

"That’s when we got the idea of church sanctuary, an idea put to practice in earlier centuries."

Sanctuary is where fugitives from the law were immune from arrest while on sacred church grounds, something that was recognised by English law from 4AD up until the 17th century.

Asylum seekers in UK struggle to build new lives

Vicar Tomasdottir added: "Norway sends refugees back to south Iraq despite international agreements, to a zone they consider safe.

"But it's quite easy to prove that that is simply not true. We are protesting against the government policy which seems to be to send these people away as if they were on a conveyor belt."

While 11,000 Icelandic families offered to host migrants in their home, only 35 Syrian refugees arrived in the first group to arrive.

The Dublin regulation aims determines which EU member state is responsible for each asylum claim - which in this case is Norway.

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