Call on Social Affairs Minister to Address Xenophobic Comments Skip to content

Call on Social Affairs Minister to Address Xenophobic Comments

Efling Labour Union has released a statement calling on the Minister of Social Affairs to take responsibility for xenophobic comments made by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary at a panel on immigrants on the Icelandic labour market last week.

Minister of Social Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason was invited to speak on a panel last Friday at the University of Iceland at a one-day conference focused on immigrants on the Icelandic labour market. Ásmundur was unable to attend the event, but sent the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Gissur Pétursson in his place.

“Is the translation correct? Where am I?” Dovelyn Rannveig Mendoza, a migration policy specialist, asked herself after hearing Gissur’s comments. According to both Efling and City Councillor Sabine Leskopf, Gissur said foreign workers were an asset because they were easy to get rid of when an economic downturn begins. Gissur also stated that it was foreign workers’ responsibility to inform themselves about their rights and create the working conditions they want. Gissur expressed his belief that it was worthless to fund Icelandic classes for immigrants because foreigners couldn’t be bothered to learn Icelandic.

“The comments aroused fear and anger among panel participants and audience members,” reads the statement, signed by Efling’s Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir and Vice-Chair Agnieszka Ewa Ziolkowska, who describe Gissur’s discourse as being “completely out of context with the basic premises of the discussion – that people of foreign origin working on the Icelandic labour market are people, human beings.”

According to Efling’s statement, Ásmundur has responded to the situation by saying he is ill-informed about what Gissur said on his behalf in the panel discussion.

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