One Year On: 800 Ukrainians Granted Work Permits in Iceland

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Over 800 Ukrainian refugees have received work permits in Iceland since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last year, an article on the government’s website notes. Today marks one year since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainians entered the labour market successfully

The Icelandic government has successfully helped Ukrainian refugees integrate into the labour market, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Over the past year, nearly 2,600 Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed to Iceland, with around 1,900 between the ages of 18 and 67, as reported on the government’s website.

“Based on the number of work permits issued, it can be assumed that more than 42% of refugees have already secured employment. However, it is important to note that some have only recently arrived and require time to settle before finding work,” the press release reads.

The first refugees arrived in Iceland from Ukraine in February of last year, with over 500 people fleeing the country in the following month. Since then, approximately 200 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Iceland each month, with residency permits granted on humanitarian grounds.

“Hard workers” who’ve been well received

The majority of work permits issued for Ukrainian refugees in Iceland are for jobs in cleaning and laundry, as well as various service roles in homes and restaurants. Some have also secured employment in the construction and fishing industries.

“We see that most people from Ukraine who come to us want to enter the labour market as soon as possible and that they put a lot of effort into finding a job. Many of them are willing to accept whatever’s available, despite their high level of education and work experience. They report feeling welcomed, safe, and positively received in Iceland,” Guðlaug Hrönn Pétursdóttir, head of the refugee department at the Directorate of Labour, which provides special services (including Icelandic lessons) to refugees who are looking for employment.

Employers in Iceland have expressed satisfaction with Ukrainian workers, who are known to work hard. In 2022, the Directorate of Labour provided community education to 395 Ukrainians and Icelandic lessons to 419 refugees.

Diesel Supplies to Run Dry Soon

driving in reykjavík

Due to an ongoing strike among oil truck drivers, petrol supplies are quickly depleting at Reykjavík stations, and representatives of major stations anticipate that supplies of diesel fuel will soon run out, Vísir reports. The CEO of N1 told the outlet yesterday that the company’s stations will close “one after the other” in the coming days. He is particularly concerned about the situation that may arise after the weekend.

Wage negotiations remain at a standstill

There is still no progress in the wage dispute between the Efling union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA); after Ástráður Haraldsson, the new temporarily-appointed state mediator, failed to inspire progress last weekend, members of the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) voted to approve a lockout of some 20,000 workers. The lockout is set to begin on March 2 at noon.

Meanwhile, strikes among oil truck drivers – alongside employees at the Berjaya and the Edition hotels (in addition to the original 700 striking hotel workers and other labourers) – resumed last Sunday at midnight. Since then, petrol supplies have gradually begun to deplete.

Representatives of major stations anticipate that supplies of diesel fuel will run dry soon. The CEO of N1 told Vísir yesterday that the company’s petrol stations would close one after the other in the coming days. He also expressed particular concern over the situation that may arise after the weekend.

“The petrol situation is better, but with regard to diesel stocks, I fear that the situation will become difficult around or after the weekend … I really don’t want to imagine the situation after the weekend, but it will be serious.”

Many N1 employees are members of the Efling union. Regarding the planned lockout of SA, Hinrik stated that N1 employees were “not at all ready to stop working.”

Companies facing a similar situation

As reported by Vísir, other oil companies face a similar situation. The CEO of Olís told the outlet yesterday that the situation was “difficult” and that, in some cases, both diesel and petrol supplies had run out, or were about to run out, at some of the company’s largest stations.

Drivers can view Ólís’ inventory status at its various stations online.

As supplies slowly run dry, some drivers have resorted to hoarding fuel. Last week, a truck driver posted a video on Tik-Tok in which he filled huge plastic tanks with diesel fuel. The first reports suggested that the man had pumped approximately four thousand litres, but it now seems that the quantity was even greater. Such a thing is both illegal and highly dangerous,

Þórður Guðjónsson, CEO of Skeljungur, told Fréttablaðið yesterday that it was a matter of “grave” concern when drivers carry more fuel on board their vehicles than the law allows. He also maintained that records were broken at petrol pumps last week.

Lockout to have a greater impact than strikes

Þórður also told RÚV that the effect of SA’s lockout would be much greater than that of the strike. “Contractors who drive for us belong to Efling, and as a result, they will not be able to distribute anymore … as soon as the lockout begins, pretty much everything will come to a standstill.”

RÚV also noted that SA’s lockout would also have a major impact on oil companies’ service stations and lubrication and tire services, which the Efling strikes have thus far not disrupted.

Participation in lockouts “not optional”

SA issued a statement yesterday, stressing that the participation of companies in the lockout was not optional. The Confederation also published a list of exempt parties from the lockout that will be imposed on Efling members. These include all those who work in health and geriatric services, as well as the police, the fire brigade, ambulances, and search-and-rescue teams, in addition to civil defence and educational institutions.

As noted by Vísir: “In the event of a lockout, no one who works according to the collective agreements between SA and Efling may come to work unless they receive an exemption from SA’s executive board. Salary payments are cancelled during the lockout, as in the case of strikes, as stated on SA’s website.”

Deep North Episode 14: Man of the Year

haraldur þorleifsson

Haraldur Þorleifsson, known more often as Halli, is famous for something most of us do every year: paying our taxes. After the sale of his company Ueno to Twitter, Halli became one of Iceland’s so-called “Tax Kings.” Now, he’s working to make Iceland more accessible. Read the full story here.

Dazed Woman in Nauthólsvík Linked to Submerged Vehicle

Nauthólsvík

Yesterday morning, the police received a tip about a woman wandering the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach in Reykjavík. A few hours later, the police were notified of a vehicle that had gone into the waters in the Skerjafjörður neighbourhood of Reykjavík. It was only after divers examined the vehicle – taking note of signs indicating that the driver had escaped from the car – that they connected the dots. The woman, despite being “extremely cold,”  is believed to have suffered only minor injuries.

Disoriented and extremely cold

Yesterday morning, just after 7 AM, the capital area police received a report about a woman wandering along the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach in Reykjavík. The police struggled to communicate with the woman, as she appeared disoriented and extremely cold. A decision was eventually made to take her to the hospital.

A few hours later, at around 11 AM, the police received another report about a car that had been driven into the sea near Skerjafjörður, Reykjavík (approximately a twenty-minute walk from Nauthólsvík). Divers from the fire department conducted a search in the waters, but no one was found. Upon further inspection of the vehicle, the divers concluded that the driver had likely exited the vehicle.

It was only after discovering the submerged vehicle, and the indications of the driver’s escape, that the police connected the dots; the woman wandering Nauthólsvík, they concluded, had driven the car – a rental belonging to Avis, which was likely totalled – into the sea in Skerjafjörður.

Deputy Superintendent Ásmundur Rúnar Gylfason told reporters that things had gone “as well as possible,” given the circumstances. “The case will take its normal course. The driver’s condition will be investigated, a blood sample will be taken for analysis, and so on and so forth.” It is worth noting that the car entered the sea on a pedestrian-cum-bike path, not a road. The woman is believed to have suffered only minor injuries.