Government Announces Additional Support for Farmers

Minister of Food Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Minister of Finance and Economy Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, and Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson presented a list of suggested measures to the government this week to support farmers who face financial difficulties due to the current economic situation. The measures aim to promote recruitment and provide support for younger farmers, as well as more efficient systemic support for the agriculture industry as a whole, which faces increased capital costs and a long-term lack of profitability.

The government’s support initiative was spurred by a recent mass gathering of young Icelandic farmers who called on authorities to take action on the urgent problems facing the sector. The measures propose paying out a total of ISK 1.6 billion [$11.5 million, €10.7 million]. to 982 farmers by the end of 2023. The deputy chair of the Icelandic Farmers Association says it is a milestone for the government to recognise the problems facing farmers, but that an additional ISK 12 billion are needed.

Strike to Cause Flight Delays in Iceland

Keflavík airport Icelandair

Air traffic controllers in Iceland will be striking on Tuesday and Thursday morning next week between 4:00 AM and 10:00 AM, affecting Reykjavík and Keflavík Airports. The strikes mean that planes will not be able to land at the airports during these times, which are peak hours at Keflavík. The strike makes exceptions for emergency and coast guard flights.

The collective agreements of air traffic controllers expired on October 1, and their negotiations with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) have gone very slowly, RÚV reports. Airlines are preparing for delays to flights during next week’s strikes in efforts to minimise the disruption to passengers.

This is the third air traffic controller strike in Iceland in five years. The chairman of the Air Traffic Controllers Association of Iceland Arnar Hjálmsson asserts that air traffic controllers’ salaries have lagged compared to other professions in the industry in recent years. There are 152 air traffic controllers in Iceland.

Minister Reviews Children’s Pending Deportation

Deporting children is “not something that we want to stand for as a society,” Iceland’s Minister of Children’s Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason stated when asked about the case of two Palestinian children who are set to be deported from Iceland. The Directorate of Immigration plans to deport the two boys to Greece, but the Minister has asked to receive more information about their cases.

Cousins Samir (12) and Yazan (14), came to Iceland in April after a dangerous voyage and six months in a refugee camp in Greece. They were sent from Palestine around one year ago by their families along with their 30-year-old uncle in hopes of a better life. Upon arriving in Iceland, they were both placed with foster families, as authorities believed there were grounds to investigate whether they were victims of human trafficking, which turned out to not be the case.

The boys have been living with two separate, but related, Icelandic families and also have relatives here in the country who received protection several years ago and have adapted to life in Iceland. The boys’ immediate families live in Gaza, where they are now under constant threat due to Israel’s ongoing attacks.

Directorate of Immigration to deport boys

A little over a month ago, Sameer and Yazan received the news that Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration was not going to take their cases into substantive consideration as the boys had already received international protection in Greece. They were ordered to leave the country along with their uncle, who is their registered guardian. The ruling has been appealed.

Reports from Amnesty International and statements from the Icelandic Red Cross have condemned the living conditions faced by refugees in Greece. Refugees in the country have difficulty accessing healthcare and housing and face ill-treatment from law enforcement officials even in cases where they have been granted international protection.

Family’s neighbourhood in Gaza destroyed

The Gaza neighbourhood where the cousins’ families live was destroyed by air strikes around one week ago, and two days passed before they received news that their parents and siblings were alive. The two boys have expressed their desire to stay in Iceland. “Icelanders cannot stop this war, but what we can do for people is to ease their worries about being deported tomorrow or the next day, or next week. That they don’t also have to deal with that,” Yazan’s foster parent Hanna Símonardóttir told RÚV.

Minister of Children’s Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason stated that his ministry had requested information on the case, but did not want to comment further on it until he had reviewed that information. Nearly 10,000 petitioners are calling on Icelandic authorities to grant the boys, and all Palestinians in Iceland, protection.

Magma Could Threaten Grindavík Again (and Again)

grindavík evacuation

Magma may start flowing into the dike underneath the town of Grindavík again days or months from now. The Icelandic town remains evacuated and experts say it is not clear when it will be safe for its residents to return to their homes. While an eruption near the town, located on the Reykjanes peninsula, is now considered less likely in the short term, a new phase of seismic activity may be beginning.

In late October, an earthquake swarm and uplift began on the Reykjanes peninsula near the town of Grindavík indicating magma collecting underground. The magma intrusion grew and filled a dike stretching beneath the town, leading authorities to issue an evacuation order on November 10 due to the risk of eruption.

A new chapter of activity

Magma inflow to the dike has likely stopped, according to a notice from the Met Office, and the chances of an eruption happening along the dike at this time have decreased. However, magma continues to accumulate just north of Grindavík, beneath Svartsengi, where a geothermal power plant and the Blue Lagoon are located. “The ongoing activity at Svartsengi, which began in October, is not yet over and a new chapter may have begun with an increased chance of a new magma propagation and, subsequently, increased likelihood of an eruption,” the Met Office notice states.

“[T]he dike beneath Grindavík was fed by magma accumulating beneath Svartsengi. It is likely that this sequence of events will repeat,” the notice continues. A new magma propagation would provide a warning in the form of earthquakes and ground deformation, which would be detected by equipment “several hours before the magma propagation is likely to pose a threat to Svartsengi or Grindavík.”

Timeline impossible to estimate

According to the Met Office, this pattern of magma accumulating beneath Svartsengi and flowing into the dike that stretches below Grindavík is likely to happen again, even repeatedly. However, it is impossible to estimate whether that will be “in the next few days or possibly after several months.”

Kristín Jónsdóttir, Head of the Volcanos, Earthquakes, and Deformation Department at the Icelandic Met Office, told RÚV it was not clear when it would be safe for Grindavík residents to return to their homes.