Protests in Front of Parliament in Wake of Deportations

refugee deportations iceland

Protestors last week flocked to Austurvöllur square in front of Iceland’s parliament in response to the recent deportation of Icelandic refugees.

The protests took place Thursday, November 3, and Sunday, November 6 with some thousand people in attendance.

The recent wave of deportations is the largest in recent history in Iceland, with some refugees being deported as their applications for asylum status were still under consideration by the Directorate of Immigration.

Isavia, the company responsible for running Keflavík International Airport, has also come under critique for its involvement in the deportations.

The Journalists’ Association of Iceland has accused Isavia of obstructing the work of journalists covering the deportations, turning floodlights against a crowd of reporters.

Isavia has published a statement regretting their involvement, saying that they were following police instructions, who requested that Isavia staff prevent filming of the deportations.

The above video from Pirate Party MP Gísli Ólafsson shows a glimpse of the crowd present at the Thursday protests.  

Icelandic police forces have also faced criticism for their treatment of the deported individuals, with one video showing a refugee man being forcefully removed from his wheelchair.

According to Icelandic police, they are now considering having vehicles more suitable for wheelchairs.

Further critique has been raised by the confiscation of refugees’ phones.

Icelandic police state that the refugees’ phones were taken from them in order to ensure their safety.

Helgi Valberg Jensson, Chief Legal Office of the National Police, stated to Vísir: “We had individuals in custody, and it was our duty to ensure their safety.  Whether this needs to be revised is something we will consider moving forward.”

Police body cameras were also reported to have been turned off during portions of the raids. Helgi has stated that this for the privacy of individuals who may feel uncomfortable.

Among the critics of the recent deportations are the United Nations Children’s Fund in Iceland, the Icelandic branch of Amnesty International, the Disabled Persons’ Association, the Red Cross in Iceland and the Icelandic Teachers’ Association.

Play to Add Routes to Stockholm, Hamburg

iceland budget airline play

Budget Icelandic airline, Play, has begun selling tickets to connections in Stockholm, Sweden, and Hamburg, Germany.

Flights to Stockholm are scheduled to begin 31 March of 2023 and will connect to Arlanda airport. Four weekly connections are scheduled, for Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Read more: Play Airlines to Open New Connection to Porto

The first flight to Hamburg is scheduled for 16 May of next year, with three flights a week. Travellers will be able to schedule flights for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Play has also recently added lines to Athens. CEO Birgir Jónsson is quoted as saying: “I am so excited for this new destination and believe many will agree with me. This will be a tremendous opportunity for Icelanders to get to Athens and this will add to the flights for people looking to get between Athens and the U.S. From Athens you can also get to many of the best Greek Islands. From Athens International Airport you can fly to Santorini, Mykonos, Crete and Rhodes. So this route will be a great option for travellers in the U.S., Greece and Iceland.”

Council of Europe to be Held in Reykjavík

Reykjavík pond downtown

The Council of Europe is to be held in Reykjavík in May of next year. The meeting is to be the fourth-ever meeting in the organisation’s 73-year history, taking place 16-17 May, 2023.

The Council of Europe, a distinct organisation from the European Union, is an international body tasked with upholding human rights and rule of law in Europe. Founded after the Second World War, its best-known body is the European Court of Human Rights.

Faced with new crises in Europe, from the war in Ukraine and the accompanying energy crisis to the economic disruptions of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the organisation has announced that it is time to redouble efforts to promote democracy and justice in Europe.

Some 46 nations are party to the Council of Europe

In a press release from the Council of Europe, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated: “It is a great honour for Iceland to be the host of the 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government. Iceland is convinced that the Council of Europe – the continent’s oldest and leading pan-European organization – has a critical role to play as the region’s guardian of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Together, we must continue to ensure that the Council of Europe is fit for purpose to meet current and future challenges as well as the expectations of future generations. We applaud the Irish presidency for their in-depth work on the role of the Council and look forward to working with all the Council’s Member States to reaffirm our common commitment to the Council’s core principles.”

Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić also stated: “The decision to hold a Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Governments is timely and right. I congratulate the Committee of Ministers on taking it. The Summit will be an opportunity for all our member states to recommit to the values that underpin democratic security in our fast-changing continent.”

Akureyri Data Centre to Open Next Year

Akureyri Iceland

Construction on a data centre in Akureyri is well underway, reports RÚV. Work began in mid-July and it’s hoped that operations at the centre will start by the middle of next year.

The data centre will be the first of its kind in the region and will be especially useful for those who want to geographically separate data that is being stored in other data centres.

The Akureyri Town Council gave North ehf. approval to build the centre on a plot of land on Hlíðarfjallsvegur in January and work has progressed quickly since then. Two interconnected buildings, 2,500 square metres in total, are being built during phase one; the full complex will include three office buildings and a service building.

With the completion of the Hólsandslína 3 electrical transmission line that runs from Akureyri to Holasandur opens up the possibility of more energy-intensive industrial development. North ehf. CEO Eyjólfur Magnús Kristinsson said that initial plans are to employee 15 staff members.

Bjarni Benediktsson Reelected as Independence Party Chair

Bjarni Benediktsson icelandic politics

Bjarni Benediktsson has been reelected as the chair of the Independence Party on Sunday. His leadership, which many have come to see as an embodiment of establishment politics, was challenged by Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, the current Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate. RÚV reports that Bjarni won the election with 59.4% of the vote, versus the 40.4% earned by Guðlaugur Þór.

Bjarni Benediktsson to Resign from Politics if Successfully Challenged

The Independence Party’s National Convention is generally held every two years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not been held for four and a half years. Guðlaugur’s challenge is perhaps a sign of needed change in a party whose leadership has remained frozen by recent events.

In the wake of the vote, both Bjarni and Guðlaugur Þór emphasized the importance of party unity and both anticipate that Guðlaugur Þór will retain his ministerial position. It had previously been suggested that losing the election would have political ramifications for Guðlaugur Þór.

“We have to stand together to push the party through the rebuilding phase,” said Bjarni.

Bjarni has been active in politics since 2003, when he was elected as a representative in Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament. Since then, he has also served as Iceland’s prime minister and is now both chairperson of the Independence Party, Iceland’s centre-right party, and Minister of Finance. His tenure as Minister of Finance has been punctuated by several major corruption scandals, the most recent of which revolved around the sale of Íslandsbanki shares.

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, current Minister of Foreign Affairs, will continue to serve as the party’s vice chair. MP Vilhjálmur Árnason was elected party secretary.