Indian man who's lived 11 years in Iceland, married to Icelandic woman, denied citizenship due to speeding ticket
Bala Kamallakharan Bala worked in the Icelandic financial industry before focusing on helping Icelandic startups receive foreign venture capital funding. He has lived in Iceland for 11 years, is married to an Icelandic woman and has two children in Iceland. The Directorate of Immigration found that a single speeding ticket outweighed all of this, denying his citizenship application. Photo/Daníel.
The Icelandic Directorate of Immigration has come under heavy criticism after the citizenship application of an Indian man was turned down due to a single speeding ticket. The man, Bala Kamallakharan, is married to an Icelandic woman. The couple has two children. Bala is an investor who founded Startup Iceland, an annual conference which brings Icelandic startups and foreign investors together. Bala has never been found guilty of any crime, and he has only received a single speeding ticket since he first came to Iceland.
The Directorate of Immigration has announced that they will review the decision.
Immigrants face enormous hurdles
Bala wrote in a Facebook post that the decision was a reminder that foreigners, immigrants and refugees face obstacles when trying to gain acceptance in a new community.
"As an immigrant, I am constantly reminded how difficult it is to be accepted into any community. Even more disappointing is the different standards that are set for immigrants. I have always known that I am going to be measured on a different scale on everything. It just became extremely obvious today. To all those immigrants and refugees out there, it is a difficult world for us... so lets keep calm and fight on to rise above the rest."
It took Bala six months to get answers why his citizenship application was rejected. He points out that he has only received the single speeding ticket during his 11 years living in Iceland.
A ruling based on a misunderstanding?
The local news site Vísir points out that the ruling seems to lack any basis in the published rules of the Directorate of Immigration. According to the rules of the Directorate of Immigration citizenship applications can be delayed for a year if the applicant receives traffic fines which exceed 50,000 ISK. Nothing in the rules of the Directorate would justify rejecting Bala's application, although his application could be delayed as his single speeding ticket was smaller than 50.000 ISK. Bala paid the speeding ticket on the spot.
Bala told Vísir that the long delay in getting answers from the Directorate as to why his application was denied, the inconclusive answers he received and the long time the Directorate to process his application all raise questions about how the Directorate handles applications.
In an interview with the local newspaper Morgunblaðið Bala expressed the hope that the denial was based on a misunderstanding, as he suspected the Directorate might have been counting all speeding tickets issued in relation to his car as belonging to him, including tickets issued to his Icelandic wife.
The Icelandic Directorate of Immigration has previously come under fire for inhumane and blatantly absurd rulings. In 2016 the local news site Kvennablaðið reported that the Directorate rejected a citizenship application from a Finnish woman who has lived in Iceland for the past 30 years. The rejection was based on the fact the woman had spent 6 months in Finland as an exchange student.
Directorate to review its ruling
Since Bala's story broke the Directorate has announced it will review the decision. The Directorate has clarified that the decision had been based on information that Bala had received a number of speeding tickets, all but one of which had in fact been issued to his wife.
Morgunblaðið reports that the Metropolitan Police and Bala will need to write the Directorate to correct the misunderstanding, after which it will review its decision.
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