Video footage (recorded on June 28th) shows Icelandic police dragging two asylum seekers of Middle Eastern origin out of a church in Reykjavik that had provided them sanctuary. According to local media, the two were later deported. The Laugarnes church in Iceland’s capital wanted to test the authorities to see if they would respect the time-honored tradition of church sanctuary, Vicar Kristin Thorunn Tomasdottir told mbl.is. Turns out that they don’t.
The former customs weren’t able to help the two asylum seekers named Ali and Majeh. The two men were removed from the altar and forcibly dragged from the church by the police late on Wednesday.
Around thirty church members, who encircled the asylum seekers in an attempt to protect them, were shocked and saddened by the authorities’ disrespectful act, Tomasdottir stressed.
“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,” she said.
Ali and Majeh were later deported from Iceland and sent to neighboring Norway, the website said. However, Tomasdottir said that her church will attempt to provide sanctuary to migrants again as a protest against the government policies towards them. `
Through working with refugees, the church has “gotten to know these individuals and heard their stories, as well as hearing about the process they have to go through upon entering Iceland.”
“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,” the vicar explained.