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30 Jun, 2016 16:14

Icelandic police drag two asylum seekers from church providing sanctuary (VIDEO)

Icelandic police drag two asylum seekers from church providing sanctuary (VIDEO)

Video footage 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.

It turns out that they don’t. The former customs weren’t able to help the two asylum seekers named Ali and Majeh.

Iceland Monitor, a local media outlet, reported that the two were of Iranian origin, while other media said they were from Iraq.  

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.

Tomasdottir and her parish object to the authorities deporting immigrants “as if they were on a conveyor belt.”

“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,” she said.

READ MORE: 'Unrealistic perceptions': 800 refugees withdraw asylum applications in Norway

Iceland, which is a small Nordic island state with a population of just over 320,000, has accepted only a few dozen refuges during the course of the European migrant crisis.

Despite around 11,000 Icelanders offering to host migrants in their homes, the first group of Syrian immigrants numbered only 35 when it arrived in the country last February.