From Iceland — Reykjavík Cemeteries Face Chilling Economic Crisis

Reykjavík Cemeteries Face Chilling Economic Crisis

Published December 2, 2019

Inês Pereira
Photo by
Christian Bickel/Wikimedia Commons

Due to the lack of funding, Reykjavík cemeteries are having difficulties providing their services, according to a report by Visir. In fact, the only cremation furnace in the country, located in Reykjavík, now faces the risk of collapsing. Þórsteinn Ragnarsson, director of the Reykjavík cemetery, is asking the government for an increase in financing.

In 2005, the state and the cemetery council signed a contract that stipulated that the cemeteries’ projects would be fully financed. Soon after, the 2009 economic crisis led to cuts in funding and the state stopped complying with the contract. “They say that this 40% cut-down should apply to the cemeteries although it has been corrected for other institutes within the government,” says Þórsteinn. In the ten years since, the staff has been reduced from 160 to 60, which has resulted in the deterioration of many structures.

Currently, the cremation oven is 72 years old and at risk of collapsing. Þórsteinn warns that if the furnace stops working, the only other option for cremation would be to get the service done abroad.

One of the proposals made by Þórsteinn to the Ministry of Justice was for the legislation to be changed to allow the cemeteries to collect fees. The fees would be charged for the use of mortuaries and the rent of the church for funerals. “It wouldn’t be a high amount proportionally to the cost for cemeteries, but this has been denied,” he told Vísir. Unfortunately, the idea has been rejected and the Ministry of Justice has yet to respond to Þórsteinn’s propositions.

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