How Many Refugees Has Iceland Brought In Anyway? - The Reykjavik Grapevine

How Many Refugees Has Iceland Brought In Anyway?

Published January 25, 2016

Photos by
Hans Guðmundsson

The number of refugees Iceland has deliberately welcomed to the country has seen its ups and downs over the decades. The grand total is still proportionately far lower than other Nordic countries.

Vísir recently compiled an overview of Iceland’s refugee policy, focusing in particular on the numbers of refugees expressly invited to Iceland by the Icelandic government. This does not include people who have sought asylum in Iceland and were subsequently granted it.

Since the practice first began in 1956, and leading up to the most recent arrival of Syrian refugees this month, Iceland has accepted a grand total of 584 refugees.

The largest single arrival of refugees was 75 people, all of them from Kosovo, in 1999. The smallest group to be invited to Iceland in a single year was comprised of 5 people in 2014, who hailed from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Uganda and Syria. 13 refugees, from Syria, were brought to Iceland last year.

Comparing Iceland’s total number of refugees with that of other Nordic countries reveals some distinct differences. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are some 17,785 refugees in Denmark, 142,207 in Sweden and 47,043 in Norway.

Even by very conservative estimates of presuming that all 584 of Iceland’s total refugees invited still live in Iceland, this is still only 0.18% of the total population. By contrast, refugees comprise 0.32% of the population of Denmark, 1.48% of the population of Sweden, and 0.93% of the population of Norway.

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