Over 75% of Icelanders Believe Immigrants Have a Positive Impact

asylum seeker program Birta

A comprehensive study conducted in early 2018 found that over 75% of Icelanders believe immigrants have had a positive impact on Icelandic society, RÚV reports. The study was conducted by a group of researchers at the University of Akureyri in North Iceland. It covers topics such as immigrants’ status on the labour market, within the school system, and their political and social engagement in Iceland.

Results a Pleasant Surprise

While foreign citizens accounted for 2.6% of Iceland’s population in the year 2000, in 2020 that figure had risen to 13.5%. Titled “Inclusive Society? Adaptation of Immigrants in Iceland,” the University of Akureyri study aimed to reveal how immigrants were adapting to Icelandic society as well as how Icelandic society was adapting in return. Many of the results were a pleasant surprise for Hermína Gunnþórsdóttir and Markus Meckl, professorts at the University of Akureyri and the two editors of the study.

While over 75% of Icelanders reported they agree or strongly agree that immigrants have had a positive impact on society, while just 4% stated they disagree or strongly disagree. Two out of three Icelanders stated they had invited an immigrant to their home. “The attitude seems to be positive and in fact more positive than one would expect in many ways. Maybe this says something about Icelandic society. In any case, this came as a pleasant surprise,” Hermína stated.

Some Schools Lack Comprehensive Policy

While attitudes toward immigrants are generally positive, Icelandic society could do better in some areas when it comes to providing them services, particularly in the educational system. The study found that many municipalities had not formulated clear policies when it came to teaching immigrants and addressing their needs. Hermína pointed out that teachers in smaller communities may lack the training and knowledge needed to adapt their methods. “This is something that municipalities need to take as more of a holistic policy and look at what kind of society we want to build up.”

Nearly 60% of Immigrants Made Under ISK 400,000 Per Month

In 2018, the average monthly salary for full-time workers in Iceland was ISK 721,000. When looking at the distribution of total wages, the most common monthly wage was between ISK 550,000-600,000. According to the University of Akureyri study, nearly 60% of immigrants made ISK 400,000 per month, significantly below national averages. Though Iceland has a gender pay gap that affects all women, women of foreign origin are much worse off in terms of wages than women who are Icelandic, according to Hermína. “This needs to be looked at systematically because we do not want inequality to increase. We want equality and equal rights for everyone here. Not just those who were born and raised here.”

Language Education is Key to Participation

Unsurprisingly, the study found immigrants who had learned Icelandic were more active in society and politics. “For example they are more likely to vote and actually participate more in society. So it’s very important that we offer people a good education in Icelandic.” The study found, however, that immigrants were not satisfied with the Icelandic language courses available to them.

According to Hermína, an important step in achieving further equality is to increase the number of immigrants working within the school system as well as in positions of responsibility.

Icelandic Literary Prize Awarded

This year, the Icelandic Literary Prize was awarded to Elísabet Kristín Jökulsdóttir, Arndís Þórarinsdóttir, Hulda Sigrún Bjarnadóttir and Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson.

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson awarded the Iceland Literary Prize at the Bessastaðir presidential residence yesterday. This year’s recipients are Elísabet Kristín Jökulsdóttir, Arndís Þórarinsdóttir, Hulda Sigrún Bjarnadóttir and Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson.

The Icelandic Literary Prize recipients receive a calligraphed diploma and a trophy in the form of an open book, designed by Jón Snorri Sigurðsson, as well as one million ISK ($7,692, €6,347), funded by the Icelandic Publishers Association.

The prize is awarded in three categories and this year’s recipients are:

For non-fiction, Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson for his book Í fjarska norðursins: Ísland og Grænland – viðhorfasaga í þúsund ár.  The judges’ panel commented “In his book, Sumarliði manages to illuminate the thousand-year history of the world’s view of the inhabitants of Iceland and Greenland, northerly islands that for centuries were enveloped in a mystical and exotic glow.

For children’s and young adult literature, Arndís Þórarinsdótir and Hulda Sigrún Bjarnadóttir for their book Blokkin á heimsenda. The judges’ panel noted that theirs was an interesting book based on an original concept. The book challenges the western world’s consumerism and introduces the threat of climate crisis without forcing it down readers’ throats.

For Fiction, Elísabet Kristín Jökulsdóttir for her book Aprílsólarkuldi. The judges noted that her fourth novel deals with an intimate story, based on fragments of the author’s own life, in an emotional and poetic way. Elísabet’s rich imagery and sensitivity are used to its fullest and the nuanced text leads the reader in an unexpected but charming way through a heart-breaking story.

This is Elísabet’s fourth novel, but she is also known for her poetry and short stories. She received the Fjöruverðlaunin prize for female, trans, and non-binary writers in 2008 and was nominated for the Nordic Council’s literary award in 2016.

133 Avalanches in Iceland in Ten Days

avalanche

An unusually high number of avalanches has fallen across East Iceland, North Iceland, and the Westfjords in recent days, according to the Icelandic Met Office. The Office has received 133 reports of avalanches in the past 10 days, though the true number is likely higher. The Civil Protection Department has declared an uncertainty phase in the North Westfjords as well as North and East Iceland due to ongoing risk.

Most of the 133 reports are from the Westfjords (52) and Northeast Iceland (41) with the third-highest number being reported in the Eastfjords (24). “It is clear that many more avalanches have occurred without being recorded. Many floods fall off the beaten track, others hit without being seen, and not all avalanches are reported to the Met Office,” a blog post from the Met Office reads. Heavy snowfall across the aforementioned regions is, of course, the cause, and the snow blanketing the slopes is considered unstable. The Office reports that some avalanches have fallen in still weather.

Read More: Avalanche Barriers in Iceland

Avalanches have fallen on several roads across the country, leading to closures while snow is cleared. The Road and Coastal Administration notifies travellers of road closures across the country while the Met Office reports on avalanche risk.

No people have been injured as a result of the events, though one recent avalanche in Skagafjörður killed at least three horses and destroyed a shed. One avalanche on the Skarðsdalur skiing grounds in North Iceland caused significant damage to the facilities. A third near Eskifjörður, East Iceland, damaged a shooting range and appears to have damaged facilities in the area as well.