Iceland’s Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir received a letter from Stewart Baker, Assistant Secretary for Policy for the US Ministry of Homeland Security, yesterday, saying he regretted the treatment of an Icelandic tourist earlier this month.
The letter states that the incident gives the US Ministry of Homeland Security a reason to review work procedures regarding how foreign tourists are being received in the US, Morgunbladid reports.
Erla Ósk Arnardóttir Lilliendahl was arrested at JFK airport in New York on December 9 for an earlier visa violation. After 24 for hours of interrogation and humiliating treatment, being locked up in a prison cell, barred from making phone calls and refused food and drink, Lilliendahl was deported.
Gísladóttir met with the US Ambassador in Iceland Carol van Voorst on December 13 and demanded an apology from US authorities. Following the meeting, van Voorst contacted the authorities at JFK airport as well as the US Ministry of Homeland Security.
“I believe this is a very successful conclusion of this case,” Gísladóttir told Morgunbladid. “I’m happy for Erla Ósk that the US Ministry of Homeland Security responded quickly to her case. I would also like to thank the US Ambassador in Iceland for her part in this.”
According to Morgunbladid, both Icelandic and American lawyers who have experience of the American justice system have contacted Lilliendahl and offered to represent her case in court. But Lilliendahl has not decided whether she is going to sue.
“I could not, in fact, have imagined a better outcome of this case, this is more than I had expected,” Lilliendahl said, referring to the US Ministry of Homeland Security’s decision to review its work procedures regarding how foreign tourists are being treated. “They are not admitting a mistake as such, but they regret the poor treatment I received.”
Gísladóttir said she is satisfied with Lilliendahl taking her story to the press and how Icelandic authorities reacted to it. “The fact that Iceland is a small country where all distances are short and every individual matters, results in Icelandic authorities taking such stories seriously, which may not have happened in other countries.”
“We must hope that this case will result in things like this never happening again in the future,” the minister concluded.