The results of the multicultural assembly, put together last autumn for
the Human Rights Committee of Reykjavík city hall, have been published,
and some of its findings are more surprising than others.
One of the first results published in the report is that while the number of immigrants who received citizenship dropped sharply after the economic collapse, the steepest decline was actually between 2006 and 2007. More women than men receive citizenship as well, which is a trend that has been ongoing since 1992.
Austurbær, Reykjavík’s east side, has the highest percentage of immigrants in the capital, who comprise 13.7% of the population. The lowest percentage can be found in the affluent Grafarholt neighbourhood, at 2.4%. As has been the case since at least 2007, Poles make up the largest immigrant group in Iceland, numbering some 9,583 as of 1 January 2010. Most immigrants are relatively young, with most of them aged 20 to 39.
The suggestions put forth by the multicultural assembly covered every area of city activity, from schools to libraries to social services. Most of these suggestions centred around language issues, i.e., making important and in many cases necessary information easily available and accessible in languages other than Icelandic, whether through print translation or through an interpreter.
However, not all suggestions were of a purely technical nature; some were more sociological. It was pointed out, for example, that immigrants are under-represented in the media, and that the immigrant population needs to see role models. One suggestion for remedying this was to have a special radio or television broadcast time, specifically for immigrants, informing them of what the city had to offer.
As far as relations between immigrants and Icelanders are concerned, the assembly believes that there remains a gap between the two – Icelanders cannot empathise with the type of discrimination that many foreigners face, while many immigrants lack the initiative to try and integrate. Both sides need to meet in the middle, the group concluded, as the integration process requires the active participation of immigrants and Icelanders alike.
After these results are formally submitted to city hall, the next step will be to make plans for putting these suggestions into actual practice.