“Iceland should take 5,000 refugees”

Syrian refugees waiting to board a ferry to Greece.

Syrian refugees waiting to board a ferry to Greece. Photo: AFP

“Fifty refugees will be taken in by Iceland over the next two years. We want the government to reconsider this decision and invite more refugees to Iceland.”

This is the group description for a new Icelandic Facebook group recently set up urging the Icelandic government to do more to help in the refugee crisis currently affecting Europe.

The title of the group is more specific in its demands and recommends welcoming 5,000 refugees to Iceland. Over 8,000 people have ‘liked’ the group since last Friday.

Various Icelandic government politicians have chimed in on the issue over the weekend and echoed calls for more refugees to be welcomed by Iceland.

“Countries like Iceland should step up and help”

Icelandic Minister for Social Affairs and Housing, Eygló Harðardóttir, has officially stated that she is in favour on taking in more refugees. While not setting a specific figure, she stressed that she did not want to see a cap on numbers. She also urged all Icelanders to make a contribution towards assisting refugees in Iceland.

Elín Hirst, MP for Iceland’s Independence Party (‘Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn’), one of the two parties in the governing coalition, goes further and describes the government’s current contribution, i.e. fifty refuges, as “shameful”.

“Countries like Iceland should step up and help,” writes Hirst in a Facebook status. “I shall be bringing up the matter in Parliament and within the parliamentary party.” As regards numbers, she simply says, “Maybe ten times more [i.e. 500] would be nearer the mark.”

Independence Party leader and Icelandic Finance Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, echoes Iceland’s responsibility to help but is more circumspect when it comes to setting a figure.

“We must assess what we can do in light of the great hardship we are seeing, and those agencies and ministries involved must address the issue immediately,” he indicates.

Iceland’s Bright Future Party (‘Björt framtíð’) has urged the government to review its currently plans and greatly increase the number of refugees to be received by Iceland.

Social awakening

Communications Officer at Red Cross Iceland, Björn Teitsson, is optimistic about Iceland’s ability to take in more refugees. “Society’s conscience seems to be stirring and I expect volunteer numbers to rise considerably.”

People in Iceland have already been using Facebook to pledge accommodation, clothes and toys.

“It is reasonable to use Sweden as a reference country for Iceland. They took in over 30,000 refugees last year. If Iceland were to receive a proportional amount, this would be 1,500-2,000 people,” states Teitsson.

At tomorrow’s cabinet meeting, the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson reportedly intends to propose setting up a ministerial committee to discuss how Iceland can best help in this crisis.

Related articles:

Akureyri to help with new refugees

Iceland to take in 50 refugees

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