Small Business Owner Facing Deportation, In Part For Not Being European - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Small Business Owner Facing Deportation, In Part For Not Being European

Published July 11, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Art Bicnick

The co-owner of a boutique featured in the Grapevine is now looking at being deported, in part for being from outside the European Economic Area. She has been given a matter of days to leave Iceland, and is reaching out to the general public for help.

Momo Hayashi is co-owner of Marko Svart, a fascinating new boutique in downtown Reykjavík that is already causing quite the positive buzz. Unfortunately, Momo may have to soon depart from the country, as she details on Facebook.

Momo is originally from Japan and has been living in Iceland for four years now. She has a fluent command of Icelandic, and has specialist training in Asian culture, and so applied for a work permit on those grounds last December.

“The Directorate of Immigration and the Directorate of Labour accepted my application, but six months later the Directorate of Labour rejected my application,” she writes in part. “The reason was because I am not from the European Union, and that other people could do my job. They made no mention of my specialist training. So they recommended I apply for a permit based on a labour shortage, but again the Directorate of Labour rejected the application, saying they are so many Icelanders who are unemployed.”

As commenters on the post were quick to point out, there are about 6,200 open jobs in Iceland right now, and rising.

“I called the Directorates of Immigration and Labour every week to ask how it’s going with my residence permit,” she writes. “They told me that it’s still being processed and everything looks good. Seven months later, all of the sudden, no, it won’t work because you’re not European and there is too much unemployment.”

Rejecting a residence permit application based on nationality may sound strange to some, but this is a part of Iceland’s immigration laws: people from the European Economic Area are free to come to Iceland and look for work immediately. People from anywhere else in the world can only do jobs that Europeans will not do, or cannot do (hence the mention of specialist training).

“I want to ask you all: did I do something wrong?,” Momo asks. “Did I take your job? Should I ask some Icelander to marry me, and just become a housewife? Or should I just go back to my ‘home’ country?”

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