Preparations are almost complete to accept the first round of Syrian refugees this December, the Minister of Welfare says.
RÚV reports that Minister of Welfare Eygló Harðardóttir has announced that all documentation on the first group of Syrian refugees to come to Iceland this winter have arrived from the United Nations. While this “has taken longer than expected”, she says, “The next step will be for the Refugee Committee and the municipalities to go over the reports, and then the preparations to welcome the group coming in December can begin.”
A parliamentary proposal on the number of Syrian refugees Iceland will accept this year calls for Iceland to welcome 100 refugees this year, 200 in 2016 and 200 in 2017.
However, the Icelandic Red Cross does not believe it will be possible to accept any more than 50 or 60 refugees this year – the admissions process is complex, and can take two to four months to complete. Further, they advise Iceland accepts 200 refugees over the course of 2016 and 2017. This number, they say, is both affordable and feasible, provided there is housing and related services available for incoming refugees distributed over several municipalities.
At the same time, the Icelandic Red Cross points out that Iceland is still accepting proportionately fewer refugees than other Nordic countries. They also have advised the government that not all Syrian refugees will have the desired documentation for processing on account of their circumstances back home.
In addition, the Icelandic Red Cross has also advised that Iceland stop deporting people to Hungary and Italy, as these countries are not fulfilling international requirements for the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal told parliament last month that Italy, Greece and Hungary are “not considered secure countries. It would not be safe to send asylum seekers back there”.