The Icelandic Red Cross says it is important that the government make a decision soon on how many Syrian refugees they plan to accept.
“It can take refugee centres two to four, sometimes five months to bring people to this country,” Icelandic Red Cross project manager Atli Viðar Thorstensen told RÚV. “In the meantime, people are waiting in terrible conditions, and even in some kind of danger. So it is important that some kind of answer comes so people in Iceland knows what the government’s plan exactly is.”
The government has indicated that it will accept more Syrian refugees than the original 50, and Minister of Welfare Eygló Harðardóttir says 25 Icelandic municipalities have already contacted the ministry, saying they are ready and willing to accept refugees. Over 1,000 Icelanders have volunteered to help the Icelandic Red Cross in the effort. A parliamentary proposal has also been submitted calling for 500 Syrian refugees to be brought to Iceland, and the proposal has broad multipartisan support.
Despite this, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson has not given even an estimate on how many refugees Iceland will be accepting, saying that what the final decision will be “should be clearer in about two to three weeks.” This news comes nearly two weeks after Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson announced that the government would assess the situation and take action quickly.
The public, grassroots drive to accept more refugees has overwhelming public support, with over 90% of Icelanders saying in a recent poll that the country should welcome more refugees. Last Sunday, hundreds gathered in a demonstration in front of parliament, calling upon the government to make a decision fast.