Woman of Letters

Paradise is such an uncompromising word. Through the years – aided by viral headlines, marketing brochures, and proud locals extolling the virtues of their ancestral land – Iceland has acquired a reputation as a utopia. The best place in the world to experience untouched nature, where white-collar criminals get punished for their infractions, and, of course, the best place in the world to be a woman. As with all generalisations, there’s a grain of truth, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. For Eliza Reid, Director of the Iceland Writers Retreat and author of the new book, Secrets of the Sprakkar, gender equality hasn’t been achieved in Iceland. But it’s still a pretty great place to live.

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MP Demands Work Permits for Ukrainian Refugees

107 refugees from Ukraine have applied for international protection in Iceland since Russia invaded the country, RÚV reports. Iceland’s Civil Protection and Emergency Response Department has increased its preparedness at the border to its alert phase, which enables authorities to open a dedicated response centre for refugees, if necessary. Iceland’s Minister of Justice has triggered an article of law to facilitate the reception of Ukrainian refugees, but the decision will limit their rights, one MP argues.

Government criticised for triggering temporary protection measure

Pirate Party MP Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir criticised the government for its reception of Ukrainian refugees yesterday, particularly the Minister of Justice’s decision to trigger an article in Icelandic law providing temporary international protection in the event of mass exodus, which she argues gives refugees fewer rights than if the article had not been triggered.

“The government has decided that they get a residence permit for humanitarian reasons which, as I say, provides inferior legal protection, does not include a work permit, and means that they will have to depend on financial aid from municipalities and will have to somehow find housing on their own once they’ve received this protection. This is a political decision and it does not show that our arms are particularly open, at least not for this year [that the residence permits are valid].”

Icelandic authorities expect between 1,000-1,500 refugees from Ukraine to arrive in the country in the coming weeks.

Stocks Tumble, Gasoline Soars

icelandair757

Iceland has not been immune to the economic effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Gasoline prices rose to ISK 303 ($2.27; €2.06) per litre around the country this morning, while diesel prices also surpassed ISK 300 per litre. Nasdaq Iceland’s index has dropped 12% since the invasion began, with the value of Icelandair stocks dropping by 32%. This drop has entirely erased the stock exchange’s steady gains over the past year.

Nasdaq Iceland’s selected share index hit a low in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It rose gradually from that date, until reaching a high point last September, RÚV reports. The day the Russian invasion began, the selected share index dropped by 6%. The stock index remains significantly higher than it was in March 2020, but its gains over the past year have been fully erased.

Íslandsbánki’s Chief Economist Jón Bjarki Bentsson outlined the three main factors causing stock prices to fall in Iceland. Firstly, the uncertainty created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has pushed investors to opt for less volatile assets. Secondly, rising energy and raw material prices impact the operations of companies that depend on those resources. Thirdly, the uncertain economic outlook on a global level may impact how well Iceland’s tourism industry bounces back from the pandemic and how many people travel to Iceland in the near future. This last factor impacts companies such as Icelandair significantly.

Rúnólfur Ólafsson, CEO of the Icelandic Automobile Association, has pointed out that rising gas prices impact often impact those who are the most disadvantaged, as well as impacting the cost of transporting goods and the cost of snow removal for municipalities. He called on the government to temporarily lower taxes on gasoline in order to mitigate the impact.

Successful Rescue Mission on Vatnajökull Glacier

Vatnajökull rescue mission March 2022

Search and Rescue crews were called out to Vatnajökull glacier in South Iceland yesterday evening when some travellers sent out a distress signal. They were found just after 10:00 PM, some four hours after their distress call was sent out, and were flown to Reykjavík by helicopter for medical attention. They were cold and wet, but not injured.

Finding the individuals was made easier by the fact that they had left a travel plan with safetravel.is. The travellers had dug themselves into the snow to shield themselves from the weather, which was snowy and wet when the search began. Crews reached the location with the help of snowmobiles, jeeps, and specialised snow vehicles.