A priest who works closely with Iceland’s immigrant community told reporters that a recent case of a Cuban family leaving Iceland due to racist harassment and threats isn’t the first of its kind, although he believes racism as a whole in Iceland has been decreasing.
The incident in question, as the Grapevine reported, was that a Cuban family had been receiving numerous threats of violence that included their home being broken into twice in a single day. Police have called the incident racially motivated and have two suspects in custody. The father and son involved in the attacks have since left Iceland.
Toshiki Toma, the national church’s priest for immigrants, told RÚV that this wouldn’t be the first time foreigners have left the country due to racism. More common though, he said, is for people to leave their places of work or to move elsewhere in the country. There have also been cases of children who have had to switch schools due to racist harassment.
Racism in Iceland usually manifests itself, he explained, in a variety of ways – comments about the color of their skin, general rudeness, or taking offense to a foreigner “acting above his station”. He added that foreigners with darker complexions are much more likely to experience racism than their lighter-skinned counterparts.
However, Toma emphasizes that he believes racism in Iceland has been decreasing. He cites a survey recently conducted by the University of Akureyri that shows foreigners generally feel better about living in Iceland now than they did just a few years previous.
Icelandic law does not tolerate racism in any form. Section 233 of the Icelandic Penal Code states: “Anyone who in a ridiculing, slanderous, insulting, threatening or any other manner publicly assaults a person or a group of people on the basis of their nationality, skin colour, race, religion or sexual orientation, shall be fined or jailed for up to 2 years.” In this instance, “assault” does not necessarily mean physical violence, but can also mean language used.