Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs, Þorsteinn Víglundsson, wrote a lengthy post on his Facebook profile, discussing the matter of refugees. The post delves into the arguments used by those who are against taking in more refugees, due to it preventing Iceland from improving pensions for the elderly and disabled.
“Every time we discuss the matter of refugees we hear people who criticize the fact that we’re helping those in need. We often hear the claim that we can choose to either help refugees or the poor in Iceland with increased funding for disability- or retirement pensions. As if we can’t do both. The logic is typically followed with the claim that we need to have the courage to discuss these matters. Various authoritative politicians have said this and there’s even a new political party gaining support for this ideology.”
Þorsteinn then pointed out that the cost of taking in refugees is never compared to anything else, such as the state’s subsidy costs for Harpa, heating, or even tourism destinations. “Not that these items of expenditure should be anything that needs to be sacrificed in order for us to get more refugees, rather than pensions of any kind.”
“The fact is that if it weren’t for refugees and immigrants, the economic growth would most likely have been smaller than it is. We wouldn’t be able to man important jobs without immigrants. They have a huge, growing role in sustaining our welfare system. Foreign citizens are now roughly 10% of our nation and they’ve slowly been increasing ever since Iceland joined the EES in 1994 and citizens of the European Economic Area were free to move here.”
Last Friday, Þórður Snær Júlíusson, editor of Kjarninn, wrote about the subject matter and the claim that people need to take on the discussion with courage. “There needs to be a deep political discussion on the matter of refugees and immigrants. But it shouldn’t be based on fears that have no place in reality and bad political attempts in making foreigners the reason for everything bad that’s happened to some groups in Icelandic society.” His article created a lot of discussions, prompting Þorsteinn to answer with his own thoughts.
Þorsteinn concluded his post arguing that those against taking in more foreigners have another goal in mind. “Those who claim that refugees and the preservation of our welfare system are opposites are solely doing so to cover up their true opinions on the matter, which is nothing but prejudice. The point is to create antipathy towards those who have come here in search of a better life and have also done their part in building a good community here. Immigrants definitely deserve better. So let’s tackle this discussion.”