From Iceland — Immigration Conference a Success, But Immigrants Are Frustrated

Immigration Conference a Success, But Immigrants Are Frustrated

Published November 9, 2010

Last Saturday’s open discussion meeting for immigrant residents of Reykjavík, “Let’s Talk!”, was attended “beyond expectations”, according to a city official that Grapevine spoke to. However, she said, many immigrants are angry and frustrated.
The conference, which was held last Saturday, invited all immigrant city residents over the age of 18 to attend and contribute ideas with regards to what the city can do to better serve the immigrant population. Barbara Kristvínsson, a councillor at the immigrant information centre Þjónustumiðstöð Miðborgar og Hlíða, told the Grapevine that many who attended had more on their minds than city services.
“I was hoping to see maybe 50 people,” she said in part. “But upwards of 160 people showed up. There was a lot of anger and frustration, people who wanted to share their personal stories. We had organized this meeting to get input on city services, but some attendees felt we were putting the cart before the horse.” She said that some of these attendees wanted to talk about racism in Iceland in general, and also had complaints about the Directorate of Immigration.
“I asked them, how can we use that anger towards making a change? As a city employee, I want to know,” she continued. With regards to city services, many immigrants said they felt there was a lack of information about what services were available to them. Many others were afraid that accepting social services would jeopardize their chances of receiving permanent residence status or citizenship.
Barbara says that while the laws and regulations can be vague in this area, receiving occasional help from social services shouldn’t jeopardize one’s chances of getting permanent residence status or citizenship. She added that many child services are also exempted. She added that any immigrant with any questions about what services are available to them should contact her office. It is generally better to call, she said, and the information she provides is completely free.
“Our next step is to sort through all this data we got from the meetings, and see how we can make changes. I came away with this feeling very positive about the situation,” she concludes.
In related news, last Saturday’s meeting hosted elections for a five-person Multicultural Committee (along with two alternates), which will serve in an advisory capacity to the city’s Human Rights Committee on immigration issues. The results are in, and the committee members are as follows:
Akeem-Cujo Oppong (Ghana),
Juan Camilo Román Estrada (Colombia),
Raúl Sáenz (Mexico),
Shuhui Wang (China),
Toshiki Toma (Japan).
And as alternates:
Katelin Marit Parsons (Canada),
Angelique Kelley (USA)
The Grapevine congratulates these new committee members, and wishes them the best of luck in representing our capital’s immigrant population.

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