Pregnant Woman’s Deportation Debated

Directorate of Immigration Acting Director Þorsteinn Gunnarsson told RÚV the Directorate was following regulations when an asylum seeker just shy of 36 weeks pregnant was deported yesterday alongside her husband and two-year-old son. Chief Physician of the National Hospital’s Maternity Ward considers it a serious issue that the Directorate deported the woman despite a medical certificate advising against the decision. The Minister of Justice has requested information on the procedure in such cases from the Directorate.

An 26-year-old Albanian woman was deported from Iceland early yesterday morning along with her husband and their two-year-old son. The woman had visited hospital the night before, where she had received a medical certificate stating that “a long flight would be hard for her.”

Medical advice interpreted differently

Eva Jónasdóttir, Chief Physician of the National Hospital’s Maternity Ward, stated it is a grave situation when a pregnant woman is sent on a flight despite a medical certificate stating is not advisable. “Obviously, asylum seekers are a very vulnerable group and are often in a mentally difficult situation, and therefore their health is maybe not the best,” Eva stated.

Þorsteinn stated the response from the medical field was unexpected, as the certificate provided did not clearly state that the woman should not fly. “It is usually very explicitly stated whether the person is capable of flying or not. When we read this certificate this morning, we understood it to simply be pointing out that it would be difficult to take a long flight.”

Justice Minister to meet with Bishop

Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir has requested further information on the case from the Directorate of Immigration. Áslaug stated that while the issue is under her jurisdiction, she does not oversee individual cases, rather hears of them via media as the public does.

Áslaug Arna also stated she will meet with Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, who requested a meeting with the Minister to discuss the deportation. The Bishop called it a “cruel act to send a pregnant woman away into uncertainty and destitution.”

Seek Energy for 50 Hectare Greenhouse

A huge greenhouse Paradise Farm is planning to build in Ölfus, Southwest Iceland, would need 150 megawatts of electricity for its operations, Vísir reports. Paradise Farm is backed by foreign investors, who hope to construct a 50-hectare greenhouse for growing vegetables and fruit, with an emphasis on export.

Paradise Farms plans to start operations with 10 hectares under glass, eventually expanding to 50 hectares. The 150 megawatts required to power such a greenhouse are equivalent to the capacity of Blanda Power Station in North Iceland.

“People are quite interested,” stated Gunnar Þorgeirsson, chairperson of the Union of Horticultural Farmers and one of the people behind Paradise Farms, when asked about reception of the project among energy companies. “There is quite a lot of energy in the system, it’s just a question of where it can be used,” adding that there are still technical issues that need to be solved in terms of how energy would be transported to the greenhouse and that it would require considerable investment.

Even small greenhouses produce considerable light pollution. Gunnar says Paradise Farms would aim to minimise that with the use of screens above the lights. Otherwise, he says, no pollution would result from the operations.

“In the new stations there is a circulation system so that the same fertiliser water is always used and not put out into nature.” Excess warm water from the greenhouse could be used in on land fish farms, which there is some interest in setting up in the area. Then we need to work on converting the carbon dioxide that comes from Hellisheiði Power Station into carbon that we can use for cultivation and make the power station more environmentally friendly along the way.”

Akureyri Builds 13th Gas Station

While Reykjavík has one gas station per 3,000 residents and London, England has one per 10,000, Akureyri, North Iceland, has one gas station per 1,500 residents. Reykjavík City Council has implemented an action plan to halve the number of gas stations in the city by 2025, Akureyri is working in the opposite direction, RÚV reports.

Akureyri is the largest town in North Iceland, with a population of just under 19,000. Despite the Icelandic government’s plans to institute a total ban on new diesel and petrol cars by 2030, the town is currently constructing its 13th gas station, on Sjafnargata street. Akureyri City Councillor Sóley Björk Stefánsdóttir of the Left Green Movement says car culture prevails in the town. Earlier this week, children and those with respiratory conditions were warned to stay inside due to high levels of particulate pollution.

Car culture dominates

“There is no clear spirit within the local council to address the issue and think about how we’re going to use this space that’s being covered by gas stations,” Sóley remarked. “There is a huge emphasis on car ownership here and that everyone needs to drive. I forgot my lunch at home and I’m on my way to a meeting and I realised I had to turn around to get a banana because I can’t buy a banana downtown in Akureyri, but I can take gas.”

Tryggvi Þór Ingvarsson, chairman of the planning council, says that the reduction of space at Olís gas station on Tryggvabraut resulted in the decision to allocate the company a plot of land on Sjafnargata. When asked whether he believes the number of gas stations in Akureyri was reasonable, Tryggvi responded: “Yes and no, it has a historic explanation. It may not be reasonable for there to be 1,500 people per each gas station, but it’s not necessarily unreasonable either.”

Three Rescued at Sea

Three lives were saved when the tugboat Blíða SH sank in Breiðafjörður fjord, West Iceland, yesterday afternoon. The ship dropped out of the Coast Guard’s compulsory notification system sometime after 11.00am and sent out an emergency call shortly after. SOS flares were also spotted in the sky.

The Coast Guard then sent a helicopter and rescue boats to the scene. Other ships and boats in the area were also asked to head to toward Blíða SH.

At 12:08, the three men were boarded onto the fishing ship Leyni SH. Blíða had sunk by then, but the men had managed to get onto a lifeboat. “The collaboration of rescuers and boats in the area was absolutely exemplary, and the men were rescued onto the fishing ship just over half an hour after the emergency call was made,” states the press release on the Coast Guard website.