Iceland govt urged to take in more migrants

Reykjavik, Iceland. Thousands of Iceland's residents have taken to social media to put pressure on their government to take in more migrants.
Reykjavik, Iceland. Thousands of Iceland's residents have taken to social media to put pressure on their government to take in more migrants.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

REYKJAVIK • Responding to a growing international crisis, thousands of Iceland's residents have taken to social media to put pressure on their government to take in more migrants.

The island nation has already said it will take in 50 migrants, but officials said on Tuesday that the country would consider raising that number.

A newly formed Facebook group, Syria is Calling, which has more than 13,000 members, is urging the government to take in 5,000. "The idea is to show the government that there exists a will to receive even more refugees from Syria than the 50 that have already been discussed. We want to push the government - show them that we can do better, and do so immediately!" a group post said in English and Icelandic.

The group said some of its members have offered to open their houses to migrants and others have volunteered to donate money, clothes, furniture and other items. The Facebook page also said: "Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, our next soul mate, the drummer in our children's band, our next colleague, Miss Iceland 2022, the carpenter who finally fixes our bathroom, the chef in the cafeteria, the fireman, the hacker and the television host. People who we'll never be able to say to: 'Your life is worth less than mine.' Open the gates."

The group said it would present the ideas to the country's welfare minister. Iceland, which has a population of 320,000, was hit hard by the financial crisis seven years ago, but there have been recent signs that its economy is improving, with tourism booming and 4.1 per cent growth in the gross domestic product predicted for this year.

FUTURE CITIZENS

Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, our next soul mate, the drummer in our children's band, our next colleague, Miss Iceland 2022, the carpenter who finally fixes our bathroom, the chef in the cafeteria, the fireman, the hacker and the television host. People who we'll never be able to say to: 'Your life is worth less than mine.' Open the gates.

FACEBOOK GROUP SYRIA IS CALLING, which has more than 13,000 members

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson said a special council of ministers would assess how many migrants could be taken in.

Iceland Review quoted Ms Eyglo Hardardottir, the social affairs minister, as saying in a televised interview that there were plans for municipalities to estimate how many refugees they would be able to accept.

Responding to concerns that an influx might strain Iceland's resources, Ms Hardardottir said migrants have historically paid taxes and contributed to society.

"We are one of the richest nations in the world, and we can accept many more than we have been accepting in the past," Ms Hardardottir said.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'Iceland govt urged to take in more migrants'. Print Edition | Subscribe