‘Receiving refugees in Iceland is important to us as a society’ Skip to content

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Photo: Golli.

‘Receiving refugees in Iceland is important to us as a society’

The refugees who have been resettled in Akureyri, North Iceland are, by and large, adjusting very well to their new home, RÚV reports. The town resettled 28 individuals from Syria between 2016-17 and has received 20 more Syrians and five refugees from Afghanistan since the fall. Now, with further resettlements on the horizon, director of Akureyri’s social services Anna Marit Níelsdóttir says it’s important to review the town’s agreement with the government and its reception and resettlement framework so as to ensure that new arrivals have the tools they need to be productive members of Icelandic society.

Most of the refugees who have recently settled in Akureyri arrived in Iceland independently, rather than being resettled as part of the government’s quota agreements. Regardless of how refugees arrive in Iceland, however, Akureyri assists in their resettlement by offering them support in obtaining housing and services like language education.

Obviously, says Anna Marit, these individuals have fled horrifying circumstances, and there are certain difficulties that go along with that. Nevertheless, “The vast majority of people who have come here have done very well and generally speaking, they want to find work as soon as possible, that’s pretty evident,” she says. “Most came to have a safer, better life and, not least, they’re thinking about their children—it’s really important to them that their children do well in school.”

‘I didn’t even know Iceland existed’

High schooler Nour Maria Naser came to Iceland from Syria with her parents and two younger brothers. She didn’t know Iceland even existed before arriving in the country five years ago.

Nour Maria says she’s adjusted well to life in Akureyri but some things—like the darkness and walking on ice—have been hard to get used to. She and her brothers speak Icelandic, and she says that the younger two are doing well in school. She plans to study medicine at university in the fall.

Mohamad Eid Alarouri arrived in Akureyri from Syria with his wife and two sons in September. Their family has since expanded: daughter Lamis was born in December. Mohamad says he’s very happy in Akureyri and is working to get his feet under him in Iceland. “I am learning Icelandic now and becoming part of the community so that my family and I can have a better life.”

Important to review resources and resettlement agreement

Looking ahead, Anna Marit says that it’s really important for there to be sufficient resources in place for incoming refugees. “Foreign studies show that refugees make positive contributions to society within a few years. So receiving refugees in Iceland is important to us as a society.”

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