Nine Refugee Families Welcomed to Iceland

Syrian quota refugees arrive in Iceland

“I saw Iceland out of the airplane and it was incredibly beautiful and unlike what we’ve been told. They said it would be cold and snowy but it was nothing like that,” Syrian Mohammad al-Hajji told a RÚV reporter upon arriving to the country. His family is one of five that arrived this morning as part of Iceland’s annual refugee quota.

Nine Syrian families – 44 men, women, and children – arrived in Iceland yesterday and today, after a long trip from Lebanon, where they have been living. The families will be settled in Hvammstangi and Blönduós, North Iceland. While Hvammstangi has a population of around 600 residents, Blönduós boasts around 900.

Furniture assembly at full steam

Meanwhile, in North Iceland, local residents have been excitedly preparing for the families’ arrival. Guðrún Margrét Guðmundsdóttir, project manager via the Red Cross, says the preparation has involved a lot of work from many volunteers, who have been putting together IKEA furniture and stocking cupboards for the families. “There’s also been a great deal of gathering furniture from local townspeople and arranging it.” Margrét says locals are excited about the arrival of their new neighbours. “People stop me in the street and ask when the people are coming and there’s just general excitement. The schoolkids are extremely excited.”

Airport welcome

It was not only representatives of the Red Cross and Ministry of Welfare who welcomed the families at Keflavík airport. Syrian sisters Nour and Yasmin al-Saadi, who have been living in Iceland for over two years, came to welcome their compatriots. The sisters are both in school, and say that learning Icelandic has been a key to integrating and educating themselves. “You need to learn the language, you need to speak Icelandic with others in Iceland,” said Nour.

Icelandic Band Hatari Makes Eurovision Finals

Hatari Eurovision

Hatari was voted ahead in the first leg of the Eurovision Song Competition semifinals last night in Tel Aviv, Israel. It’s the first time in five years that Iceland makes the finals of the competition. The band will perform in the second half of the final, which will be held this Saturday, May 18.

“We’re very grateful for this opportunity. It’s obvious that capitalism is one step closer to crumbling,” said band member Klemens Hannigan in a press conference following the performance. “Everything is going according to plan.”

This year’s contest has been a subject of controversy due to being held in Israel, with many activists calling for a full boycott of the competition. Hatari has also received criticism for participating in the competition rather than supporting the boycott. The band’s members have expressed support for the Palestinian cause and have stated they are aiming to “forefront issues that matter” during the competition.

RÚV will be broadcasting the second leg of the semifinals this Thursday and the finals on Saturday with English commentary. Watch Hatari’s semifinal performance.