Up to 2,000 Ukrainian refugees could come to Iceland and apply for international protection, RÚV reports, and Vísir reports that the Minister of Justice will be allowing these refugees to apply for asylum in Iceland without having to go through the usual application process. These decisions make a contrast from the Icelandic government response to the fall of Kabul last August.
Stefán Vagn Stefánsson, the chair of the Refugee Committee, told reporters that the biggest challenge at the moment is finding housing for Ukrainian refugees applying for asylum in Iceland. This process is typically done through municipalities who have an agreement with the state to provide housing. So far, however, only three municipalities have such an agreement with the state, but Stefán hopes more municipalities will be included.
“It is our aim now to make more agreements with more municipalities,” he told reporters. “I have said, and emphasise here, that if this succeeds as we want, then we will have a broader base of support amongst the municipalities in Iceland to make this happen. Otherwise, it will be very difficult.”
Following meetings with other European ministers, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has also decided to activate a special “emergency article” of the Law on Foreigners, which enables the reception of asylum seekers without having to compel them to go through the normal application process, which can often be protracted and complicated. This is a temporary measure put in place due to the sheer volume of Ukrainian refugees, which as of yesterday totaled some 1.5 million people by some estimates.
In contrast to Afghanistan
The response to the war in Ukraine is markedly different from how the Icelandic government responded to the refugee crisis following the fall of Kabul last August. At that time, the Icelandic government announced it would accept 120 Afghan refugees.
It is relatively easier for one to fly from one of Ukraine’s neighbouring countries to Iceland than it would be to fly from Central Asia, so the logistics of accepting refugees from Ukraine is slightly less complicated than accepting those from Afghanistan. However, thousands of Afghans have since made their way to Europe in the months following the fall of Kabul, and the Icelandic government did not activate the emergency article on the Law on Foreigners for these refugees.
Rather, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told reporters at that time that the government would prioritise those Afghans who worked with or for NATO; those who attended UN University in Iceland, along with their spouses and children; and that Afghans applying for family reunification—which would bring only their closest relations to the country—would have their applications prioritised and expedited.
Vandalism at the Russian consulate
Last Thursday, police received notice that someone had splashed red paint on the consulate, and other parts of the building have been spray painted as well. Police told reporters that they also intervened when an Icelander showed up on consulate property and caused an unspecified disturbance. The individual was taken into custody after refusing to vacate the area on their own accord, and later released after a brief questioning.
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