Icelanders To Take Refugees Whale Watching, On Sheep Round-Ups - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelanders To Take Refugees Whale Watching, On Sheep Round-Ups

Published September 25, 2015

Photos by
Ambassador Akureyri

Part of how the Icelandic Red Cross will help incoming refugees get settled in will be to take them whale watching, on sheep round-ups, and other outings.

As Iceland prepares to accept Syrian refugees, a great deal of work is entailed in the integration process. Those who arrive will be brought from refugee camps in Lebanon and will be “under great mental stress”, Icelandic Red Cross project manager Julie Ingham told Vísir.

“When they apply for asylum, they receive a great deal of information in a short period of time,” she explained. “They have interviews with the police, social services, and the Directorate of Immigration, and some of them have a poor grasp of English. While that process continues, refugees are placed in housing with people they don’t know, which has a tendency to create isolation. The social work that we do is very important.”

Volunteers for the Icelandic Red Cross engage in that social work by visiting refugees where they live, sometimes in the company of people who speak their native language. Icelandic classes are offered that teach both the language and culture. More so, though, refugees will be invited out to take part in such quintessential Icelandic activities as going whale watching, or taking part in a sheep round-up.

“We are first and foremost building a connection and establishing trust,” she said. “Some people even come back after they’ve been granted asylum to take part in our social work.”

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