After months of nearly non-existent consular service at the US embassy, in addition to recent coverage of US Ambassador Jeffrey Ross Gunter in the press, a number of US citizens in Iceland are demanding that he be removed from his posting.
The ambassador’s tweet from last week, wherein he called the novel coronavirus “the Invisible China Virus”—a term not used by any medical professional and considered racist by many—has prompted heated discussions amongst Americans living in Iceland.
Grace Claiborn Barbörudóttir, an American who has lived in Iceland for about five years now, recently penned an article calling for Gunter’s removal. Grace points out that in addition to echoing “the same damaging rhetoric of the Trump administration which has endangered Americans in America by inflaming racial tensions, conflating conspiracies with science, and prolonging an epidemic”, there is also the issue of consular services.
“The embassy’s official website displays anti-Chinese propaganda but is impossible to request an appointment, as the calendar is full of blank, grey squares indicating indefinite closure,” she writes. “Emails are returned with questions about future appointments unanswered. Many American citizens cannot register births, deaths, get passports, or receive any type of assistance that is the essential function of consular services.”
This essay was penned before a story from CBS News disclosed that the ambassador has also requested he be allowed to carry a gun, received “door-to-door armoured car service”, and has been posting ads in Icelandic newspapers for bodyguards.
Furthermore, current and former diplomats familiar with the situation have also told CBS News that he has created an “untenable” work environment at the embassy, and left the embassy in the hands of a temporary Deputy Chief of Mission for months—from February to May—while he remained in the US. CBS sources allege Gunter wanted to continue his job remotely from California, and did not return until he was “expressly ordered to do so by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo”.
Grace has reiterated her criticisms in the Icelandic media, saying that many US citizens are both frustrated by the lack of consular services and embarrassed by the diplomatic front. She re-iterated the desire expressed by many US citizens in Iceland that Gunter be removed from his position.
“A lot of people don’t know that an ambassador can be expelled for any reason, under the Vienna Convention,” she told Stöð 2 news. “We’re mad, because we work hard to be good people in this society, to participate in a meaningful way. Having him represent us is unfair to us. It’s humiliating.”
This morning, a petition was created on the official site of the White House calling for Gunter to be removed from the ambassadorship.
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