Fundraising Campaign Hopes to Reunify Palestinian Families Skip to content

Fundraising Campaign Hopes to Reunify Palestinian Families

By Ragnar Tómas

Palestine protest Feb 5 2024
Photo: Erik Pomrenke. Protesters call on the Icelandic government ot act on already-approved family reunifications of Icelandic visa holders in Gaza.

An Icelandic aid organisation has initiated a fundraising campaign to assist in relocating 128 Palestinians from Gaza, addressing delays in government action regarding family reunification. The successful transfer of a family to Egypt by three Icelandic citizens underscores the practicality of such efforts, the organisation maintains.

Government inaction

A fundraising effort has been initiated by the humanitarian aid organisation Solaris to cover the costs of relocating 128 Palestinians from Gaza. According to a website dedicated to the effort, these individuals — 75 children, 44 mothers, and 9 fathers — have been “waiting for months for assistance from the Icelandic authorities,” as they have been granted residency permits in Iceland based on family reunification.

The decision to raise funds follows perceived inaction on behalf of the government.

“People living in Iceland and waiting desperately for their families have repeatedly requested dialogue with the authorities, which has almost exclusively been denied or ignored. Meanwhile, government ministers have repeatedly misled the public to divert the discussion and try to absolve themselves of moral responsibility,” the website notes

“Time is running out. In Gaza, people are in great danger. We must respond to their emergency.”

New policy needs to be formulated

In an interview with the Stöð 2 evening news yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson stated that it would not be possible to start retrieving the aforementioned 128 individuals from Gaza until a new government policy had been formulated; Iceland’s infrastructure could burst under the additional strain, as the asylum-seeker system was currently costing taxpayers over ISK 20 billion [$145 million / €135 million] annually. 

“We simply cannot continue to blindly accept more people than everyone else and watch our infrastructure burst. That is the situation we are facing,” Bjarni observed. 

Not just a matter of sending documents

On a similar note, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told RÚV yesterday that the issue was complex, with three ministries working to ensure the people are brought to the country. 

According to Katrín, the Directorate of Immigration has prioritised the applications of Palestinians, and the Ministry of Social Affairs has negotiated with the International Organization for Migration, IOM, to assist in moving the people between locations. 

Katrín stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent documents regarding those who have received residency permits based on family reunification: “These documents are sent to the appropriate places in both Egypt and Israel. Then, due to the situation, it becomes slightly more complicated than just sending such documents; it requires sending personnel to the location.”  

Katrín added that the transport of these individuals would be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Costly, yes; complex, no

Solaris rejects the notion that reunifying families is complex, noting that three Icelandic women (Bergþóra Snæbjörnsdóttir, Kristín Eiríksdóttir, and María Lilja Þrastardóttir) — dismayed by the government’s inaction — recently managed to bring a woman and three children from Gaza to safety in Egypt. 

It took only four days.

As noted by Vísir, the Palestinian woman and the three children are related to a friend of the three Icelandic women. The man has been residing in Iceland in recent years. He received an Icelandic identification number (Kennitala) last year and applied for family reunification in April 2023.

Solaris admits, however, that relocating people from Gaza to Egypt requires significant financial resources. 

“The total cost of legally moving about 100 individuals across the border, in cooperation with service providers and contacts working with Egyptian and Israeli authorities responsible for these matters, is around ISK 50 million or [$363,000 / €337,000],” the fundraising website notes.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!