An agreement between national and local authorities on accepting the first round of Syrian refugees is nearly finished.
RÚV reports that the Ministry of Welfare has almost finished negotiations with Akureyri, Kópavogur and Hafnarfjörður on the matter of when and how these municipalities will welcome the first round of refugees. Their arrival, from refugee camps in Lebanon, is expected next month. This first group will comprise 55 individuals.
The municipalities will be tasked with assisting the incoming refugees as they integrate into society. This includes providing housing, registering children in school, providing access to Icelandic classes, and more. As reported, the Directorate of Labour is also doing its part, looking for employers willing to hire refugees.
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”.