From Iceland — SOUR GRAPES


Published December 1, 2006


Dear Grapevine Readers,
The past weeks media reports have been overwhelmed by the immigration issue in Iceland. So far the only beneficiary of this talk is the “Liberal Party” which gained a noticeable rise of supporters in the recent poll conducted for Fréttablaðið (it’s worth mentioning that according to the previous poll from last August the party could count on merely 2% of votes). The discussion is on the move, however very little concerning the foreigners policy in Iceland has been done apart from an unfortunate wave of xenophobia and racism (especially towards the Polish minority) flooded over the Icelandic society. The dreadful headlines or major articles about foreigners have been adding fuel to the fire.
The opponents of free labour movement are concerned that such a big influx of foreigners can endanger jobs of Icelanders, since the foreigners are untruly thought to agree to work underpaid. Here it is – something I do not actually understand. Why do those people want to put the whole responsibility for this on foreigners? How can they think that the foreigners who are applying for a job in Iceland from their home countries know about minimal wages, workers´ rights and union agreements? They take what they have been offered, supposing they like it. Another group are people who come here to look for work. Without a proper knowledge of the native language and your rights how you can know if you are not being cheated or used by your employer? And the circle closes. Is not it the responsibility of the local and government authorities, the workers´ unions to control the labour laws and workers´ rights? Especially of those who are most vulnerable, that is the foreigners?
Another point I want to focus on is the free movement of people and labour within the EU and EFTA countries. 8 of 10 new members of the EU were granted that freedom in Iceland on May 1st 2006. I am not sure if Icelanders realise what it practically means for us – people from those countries. Basically it means less bureocracy, both for employees and employers. Now we are not bound to work for the same employer until the end of the contract, we can quit and change a job for a better offer, we can apply for the first work and residence permit while being here and receive them in a shorter time. It takes less formalities for the employer and what is most important it reduces a need for often dishonest employment agents or illegal work. The Polish minority has been the largest group of immigrants in Iceland for the past years, still is, and it’s growing. I am writing in particular about the Polish, as for many in Iceland it is synonimous to the new EU members which is also their biggest fear. At the same time the unemployment rate in Iceland has been constantly dropping or being at the minimum. This gives me and many others non-economists an obvious message: the Icelandic economy is growing, allowing more investments, it creates more jobs and at the end a need for immigrants that can support this rising trend. In conclusion to this matter i want to highlight that it is not my Polish national pride or high self-esteem that tells me that Polish people must be reliable, hard-working and professional workers but the number of Polish nationals working in Iceland (it is said about 10 thousand) and the number of Icelandic employers that are satisfied with the work and want to employ even more Polish people.
I hope that any further discussion about foreigners, immigrants, New Icelanders will not change a very positive perception of foreigners in Iceland that has been so far among Icelanders. I hope everyone agrees that Iceland needs foreigners to sustain its economic status. I hope Icelanders like thinking of themselves as a multicultural society. I hope the government understands that some steps have to be taken soon to accommodate the natural need of the society to integrate immigrants with Icelanders. I hope that the recent outburst of xenophobia and racism is only a momentary side effect of the “Liberal Party” aggressive campaign.
With a lot of hope,
Joanna Dominiczak
We hope so too.
Good Lord Grapevine! I’ve died and gone to heaven. There is a black woman writing columns on her life as a new Icelander! I’m so out of sorts that I am using excessive exclamation marks! You see, I was in Iceland once too. It has always been a place of interest to me. But, I found in my preparation for the journey, there was NOTHING on what to expect as a black woman (pnly that whole bit about black servicemen being banned from the base in Keflavik back in the day). So, I was sick with nervous energy as my plane landed in Keflavik–not knowing if I would be gawked at or given hostile stares. I can say that my visit in Iceland was with without incident. There was only one person who remarked how much they loved black people’s teeth because they were so white. As this statement was made in a way that was meant to be a compliment, I wasn’t offended – though it did make me feel like a horse, and I did refrain from smiling with my lips parted. But, that’s beside the whole point. Thank God for Gabriele. Please keep her on board.
April Dobbins
Visit me at: or
We are quite pleased with her as well, and her teeth.
To whom it may concern:
My name is Laura de la Garza and I’m writing to you all the way from Mexico, to respectfully urge to stop the cruel massacre of whales in your country. Your country, in addition with Norway is the only country that openly hunts whales for commercial purposes.
Although the mails you are sending in response to our protest say that you will not kill endangered species, that is not true. Already 7 Fin Whales have been murdered, and this IS an endangered species.
I know that killing whales is not necessary for the survival of any of the citizens in your country, and many times their meat is only used as fertilizer or pet food.
There is a significant difference between commercial whaling and the aboriginal hunting of whales for strictly subsistence purposes.
It is shameful that a beautiful country as Iceland, considered for us as one of the craddles of civilization, would choose to join Japan or Norway in wastefully exploiting the great whales.
What kind of world are we going to leave for our children. Please, act up to the country you’ve been and stop this shameful killing.
Laura de la Garza and family
Mexico City
You have a point there – consider it passed on. Killing whales isn’t cool. We hope you also have active letter writing campaigns opposing wars and such. Maquiladorias, too.

From: Augusto Parolini
I am encouraged my last letter was published.
Can i put on this one the alias of Petur Peturson?
What If?
Weeks ago the web offered news about Iran gaining nuclear power despite many worries.
Iceland is not Persia, it happen in Hvergraedi is set the garden of eden: history track the mytos of it between Iran edges.
Again Iceland is not Iran for “hi run” but considered how the world is mapped, north up and south bottom, in everybody watching the globe the Icelander is suppose to step over a lot of countries.
Higher maybe some Canadians, feet by feet in the kingdom where the magnetic north pole is located.
[…] Scientist affirm on mars there was water and it finished or disappear, reason enough to search trace of life, some other evolutive biochemical aids or virus and enough again for G. W. Bush plan to settle on the red planet.
What´s true that night when i quit the Pentagon bar with his dusted not used piano on the live stage the lady kick me out a bye bye: was her Eve?
Petur Petursson
Dear “Petur” (nudge, nudge),
we agree. Was her Eve indeed? Can you please send some of what you’re smoking along with your next letter?

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