Things have taken a turn for the better where Iceland’s acceptance of Syrian refugees is concerned. The Icelandic government voted in favour of offering 2 billion ISK in assistance to go towards welcoming the refugees brought to Iceland, assisting refugee relief efforts overseas, and speeding up the asylum seeker application process. At the same time, at least 100 Syrian refugees will be welcomed to Iceland, probably this December, and that may be the first group of many more. Akureyri has already been slated as the first town to welcome these refugees. Not the 1,600 or even the 500 refugees we’ve seen proposed, but it’s a start!
In less heartening news, copyright holder organisations and Iceland’s major ISPs have reached an agreement to block their customers’ access to the Icelandic-language torrent site Deildu.net, and The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Party has come out strong against the move, with MP Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir warning that it “set[s] a precedent for blocking access to websites without taking the matter to trial first and proving [the torrent sites] have hurt anyone.” As things such as proxy servers and other torrent sites remain in existance, it is uncertain how effective the firewall will be.
There’ve been a lot of predictions that upwards of 1.5 million tourists will visit Iceland next year, which is like five times the population of the country(!). In response, Minister for the Environment Sigrún Magnúsdóttir has confirmed that the government is considering arrival tolls, increased parking fees, and other tolls in order to help maintain sites of natural wonder facing this much foot traffic. Given how unsuccessful the notorious Nature Pass idea was, we may just have to go ahead and pave over Geysir now.
As our readers are probably well aware, there are few things more exciting than famous people visiting Iceland, except maybe reporting on the reporting of famous people visiting Iceland. This month’s celebrity power was decidedly high. First of all, scenes from ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ are currently being filmed in Iceland, bringing Mads Mikkelsen, that actor who played TV’s version of beloved cannibal psychopath Hannibal Lecter. Not to be outdone, pop star Justin Bieber (whose cannibal psychopath status remains uncertain) also visited our fair shores, and the local media coverage was very detailed about his prefered coffee drink (double cappuccino) and his favourite Subway sub (turkey, twelve inches), as well as his use of a bodyguard at a public toilet. Never let it be said there are details too trivial to report on when it comes to famous people in Iceland.
Speaking of musicians, legendary singer-songwriter Bubbi Morthens recently joined in a move initiated by local folk-pop band Ljótu hálfvitarnir, issuing a public statement forbidding radio station Útvarp Saga from playing any of his songs. The station has repeatedly engaged in practices that many label racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic, and Bubbi said his ban will stay in effect “for as long as they sow prejudice and hatred.” To put this in a non-Icelandic context, this would be like Bruce Springsteen issuing a similar ban against a radio station in the US.
Finally, there is Reykjavik City Council’s recent motion to place an purchasing ban on products from Israel, which was later rescinded, to be replaced by a different proposal, embargoing Israeli products made in occupied Palestinian territories, which was then also nixed.