Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said Monday that issues surrounding the Directorate of Immigration’s housing facilities will not deter or delay Iceland’s reception of refugees from Ukraine, and preparations are already underway, Vísir reports.
Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told Vísir last week that “there is a real state of emergency at the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL),” exacerbated by the unwillingness of asylum seekers in Iceland to undergo PCR testing required as a condition of their deportation from the country. He said the Directorate’s difficulties in carrying out deportations of some refugees is resulting in less housing and fewer facilities available to welcome other refugees that the government is willing to welcome
During question period in Alþingi Monday, Social Democratic Alliance MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir called the Minister of Justice’s comments unacceptable and asked the Prime Minister if they were reflective of the government’s policy.
Katrín replied that many people are in very vulnerable positions and it matters how those groups are talked about.
Furthermore, she said the status of ÚTL’s housing will not hinder Iceland’s reception of Ukrainian refugees. Katrín noted that the Minister of Social Affairs had already met with the Refugee Committee and preparations had already begun to receive them.
The Prime Minister reminded Alþingi that half a million Ukrainians have already fled the country since the Russian armed forces began their invasion on Feb. 24, and that figure could increase to four to five million. She said a large proportion of those who have fled will likely want to return to their home country when the situation allows, so both short- and long-term arrangements need to be considered.
“I would like to note that it is not long since the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan and the Icelandic government initially decided to receive a certain number of people and then decided to receive a larger number of Afghan refugees because we felt it was important to take responsibility for the global community. In relative terms, we actually welcomed more people than other Nordic countries did on that occasion. So when we look at what has previously been done, we have not shied away from taking responsibility,” Katrín said.