Rights and services for asylum seekers

Legal aid by the Icelandic Red Cross

As of 25 August 2014 the Icelandic Red Cross provides service to asylum seekers, safeguarding (protecting) their rights, according to an agreement with the Ministry of the Interior. This entails the Icelandic Red Cross provides asylum seekers with consultation and safeguards their interests during case procedure by the authorities, i.e. both in respect of the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration and at the appeal level with the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board. The format of the service is that an attorney from the Red Cross meets with the asylum seeker shortly after his/her arrival in Iceland, informing him/her of the service provided by the Red Cross, including social advice and assistance in locating relatives, talks to the asylum seeker about his/her legal rights in Iceland and appears with him/her at interviews with the Directorate of Immigration. During such interviews the attorney safeguards the rights of the applicant (asylum seeker) and presents his/her views if he/she does not do so him-/herself. This service of safeguarding the rights is available during the whole time an asylum seeker is in Iceland while his/her application is under procedure, i.e. also at the appeal level and if the relevant person is to be transported out of Iceland until such transportation takes place.


If an asylum seeker is unable to finance his/her upkeep while the case is being processed, services and assistance are available to him/her, by the Directorate of Immigration, the Social Services of Reykjanesbær, the Reykjavík Social Services or the Social Services of Hafnarfjarðarbær. This service is 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 service. Basic service refers, among other things, to medical service, schooling and kindergarten for children, leisure activities and travels within the municipality. The Directorate of Immigration decides which municipality will provide the service to the applicant, taking into account his/her needs and the capability of the municipality to provide the service as needed.

The applicant will undergo medical examination upon arrival in Iceland in order to see if he/she suffers from any contagious decease that requires medical treatment. The asylum seeker also receives ID papers confirming his status as an asylum seeker in Iceland.

Commonly, applicants stay in rented housing together with other applicants, whereas, families are always provided with housing that suits the size of each family and its circumstances. A family will not reside with other asylum seekers.

Temporary residence and work permits for asylum seekers

Even though an asylum seeker is unable to provide for him-/herself upon arrival in Iceland, he/she may at a later stage apply for a temporary residence and work permit. The applicant must meet certain conditions before the permit can be issued. The conditions that mainly prevent the permit being issued are if an applicant has not provably stated his identity (has not submitted a valid passport or another acknowledged (accepted) identification), or he/she has a case in procedure under the Dublin Regulation. If an applicant meets the conditions for the issuance of a permit, the permit will be issued for six months at a time. An asylum seeker who has received a temporary residence and work permit is responsible for his/her upkeep at which point the service by the municipality to him/her ends.