Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson says Iceland could accept “tens” of refugees from Syria, but a final decision is still pending.
“I am hopeful that we will have mapped out how many [refugees] it will be possible to welcome in the first round at our next meeting,” Sigmundur told RÚV, and the next ministerial meeting on the subject is tomorrow. He added that the final number could be “tens” of refugees.
Iceland will be taking a narrow focus to accepting refugees, he said. Iceland will be taking Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East; in particular, in Lebanon. He does not expect Iceland will be taking any Syrian refugees already in Europe.
Iceland’s government, like other governments in Europe, has been under considerable pressure to act fast in taking in Syrian refugees, most of whom either live in deplorable conditions, are in danger for their lives, or both.
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.
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.