An Open Letter To Jakob Frímann Magnússon - The Reykjavik Grapevine

An Open Letter To Jakob Frímann Magnússon

An Open Letter To Jakob Frímann Magnússon

Published October 26, 2011

As someone who made the conscious choice to move to Iceland and gain citizenship, I have to say that your recent remarks about Bulgarians and Romanians – who, after being a part of the European Union for five years now, will finally gain their member-state right to move freely throughout the EU – came as a great disappointment to me.
Your concern, if I understand you correctly, seems to be that come January 1, Iceland will become vulnerable to criminals from these countries; that they pose a real threat to the security of this country, and special measures must be taken based on the full admittance of these two countries into an international organisation that they earned the right to join.
Let’s put aside, for a moment, the fact that there has actually been a decline in robberies and homocides in Bulgaria and Romania, or that the highest overall crime rates in Europe remain in the west. It is astoundingly unfair to judge two entire nations, comprised of millions of people, based on the actions of a few.
I don’t know what kind of Bulgarians and Romanians you know. The ones I know are not criminals. They are physicists, engineers, playschool teachers, graphic designers, construction workers, and caregivers in homes for the elderly and the disabled. They moved to Iceland in search of a better life, and found it. They love living here, pay their taxes (which, by the way, pay for your salary in part), and are exemplary residents of this great country who contribute positively to our society.
But maybe it’s difficult to sympathise. So let’s apply your logic to Iceland for a moment:
Iceland is currently seeking admittance to the EU. Let’s say that politicians in the EU started making the same blanket judgements you have. “What if their bankers come here? Or their venture capitalists?,” they might say. “Do we really want to leave our countries open to these people, to march right in here and ruin entire families? Shouldn’t we step up special security measures to ensure that people from Iceland – which is well-known to have a solid base of criminals who are currently walking free, despite their heinous crimes – don’t do the sort of damage to us that they have to their own country?”
Such a ridiculous argument would understandably spark outrage in Iceland, and across Europe. Icelanders enjoy a very good reputation with people all over the world, despite the actions of a few. And rightly so. Is it not civilised to extend the same courtesy to others?
Many Icelanders and foreigners alike have been disgusted and ashamed by your remarks, but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Fear inspires insecurity, and it can make people say things they don’t necessarily mean. So I’m going to assume that you, as a full-grown man, are capable of reflection and have the class to apologise.
And apologise you should. Not just to the Bulgarians and Romanians living in Iceland and abroad, but to all of us. Iceland is a multicultural country, and one I am proud to call home. In the interests of better reflecting the spirit and mentality that makes this country great, do the right thing, Jakob. Just say you’re sorry, without excuses and with complete sincerity. Set a precedent for people who misspeak. I, for one, will think you the better man for it.

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