One fourth of Skútustaðahreppur municipality’s residents are foreign citizens, RÚV reports, compared to around 13% in Iceland’s overall population. It’s a recent demographic development driven by the tourism industry. The municipality has been preparing a special multicultural policy to better welcome and integrate its newest residents.
Skútustaðahreppur contains Mývatn lake, one of the most visited sites in North Iceland. The stream of tourists to the region has led to a population boom in recent years. “Over 40% since 2013, which is a little bit refreshing but has been a bit of a strain on our infrastructure,” says Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, the municipality’s mayor, who says the increase can largely be explained by tourism. “Foreign labour is the basis. We are in the unusual position that a quarter of the population here are foreign residents and therefore it’s very important to welcome them into our community,” Þorsteinn stated.
The municipality’s new multicultural policy has been in preparation for almost a year, and addresses issues such as local services to residents and how Skútustaðahreppur schools can support students of foreign origin. The policy also explores how the municipality can provide a good quality of life for all its residents.
Skútustaðahreppur is not the only Icelandic municipality working to better address the needs of its foreign residents. The neighbouring municipality of Norðurþing employs a multicultural representative in a part-time position. The municipalities of Norðurþing, Skútustaðahreppur, and Þingeyjarsveit are all considering creating a full-time position in the field.