Iceland: Iraqi teen dragged out of church by police, now faces deportation

Two Iraqi asylum seekers, including a 16-year-old, stood behind an alter seeking sanctuary. They were accompanied by Church-goers in solidarityFacebook

A 16-year-old Iraqi was among the asylum seekers forcibly removed from a church in Iceland by police, and is now facing deportation.

The Icelandic church opened its doors to two Iraqi asylum-seekers, Ali Nasir and Majed, on Monday evening, hoping to prevent their deportation.

Police and immigration officials entered the building at 4 am. The two men were standing behind the altar accompanied by several churchgoers standing and praying in solidarity with them.

A 16-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car, having sought refuge in a church.Facebook

They were dragged out of the church and handcuffed. When Nasi was handcuffed, a man stepped forward, protesting that he was only 16. The man was then punched in the face.

The two men were put in separate cars outside the church building.

There is a long-standing tradition of sanctuary in churches, where asylum-seekers have protection while in the building.

Toshika Toma, the Lutheran church's minister for immigrants, and Kristín Þórunn Tómasdóttir, the parish priest for Laugarneskirkja church, had hoped this tradition would be respected by the police. This was not the case.

The two men are set to be deported to Norway initially. It is likely that from there, they will be sent back to Iraq.

Despite international recognition of the dangers of Iraq, Norway sends refugees from Southern Iraq back to the country, claiming they will be safe there.