Iceland's President Personally Welcomes Syrian Refugees - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s President Personally Welcomes Syrian Refugees

Published January 31, 2017

Photos by
forseti.is

22 Syrian refugees arrived in Iceland yesterday, and President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson made it a point to invite them to the presidential residence at Bessastaðir and personally welcome them to Iceland.

RÚV reports that these refugees will be settled in Reykjavík and Akureyri, and arrived one week after another group of Syrians, who have been settled in Selfoss and Hveragerði.

These new arrivals, comprised of nine adults and 13 children, were subsequently invited to Bessastaðir, where they were personally welcomed by the President, as well as Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson and Minister of Welfare Þorsteinn Víglundsson.

The President gave a brief speech on the occasion, wherein he cited former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. You can read the speech in its entirety below:

I offer you my heartfelt welcome to Iceland. You had to flee the horrors of war, I hope you will enjoy your new home. We Icelanders cannot rescue the world, we cannot receive all who seek refuge. More powerful states need to secure peace in war-ravaged parts of the world.

Still, we can try to help. We can offer a safe haven and improve our society by demonstrating open mindedness, charity and compassion. We can derive that sense of duty from the Christian faith which most people adhere to in Iceland. We can also recall the opening article of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Here in Iceland we want to defend indisputable human rights: gender equality, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom to travel and not the least the freedom from fear. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” the president of the United States said so memorably in 1933. Again, let me welcome you to Iceland with all of my heart.

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