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Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

Demand Investigation into Reykjavík Orphanages

Five men that were placed in Reykjavík orphanages during the last century are calling on city authorities to conduct an investigation into the institutions and their impact on the children put in their care, Vísir reports. In a 1967 headline, the orphanages were described as a “breeding ground for mental infirmity.” The group says their stays at the institutions caused them and their families harm.

Árni H. Kristjánsson, Fjölnir Geir Bragason, Hrafn Jökulsson, Tómas V. Albertsson and Viðar Eggertson demand the City of Reykjavík appoint a team of specialists to investigate the operations of the Hlíðarendi Orphanage as well as the Thorvaldsenfélag Orphanage, which were run by city authorities between 1949 and 1973. In a letter they have sent to city officials, the group references the words of Dr. Sigurjón Björnsson, a former city councillor, who has shown that children placed in the orphanages were permanently harmed due to “disruption of their emotional development.”

Children at the orphanages most often had living parents. Their mothers who were disadvantaged – young, single, or poor – and caved to pressure from authorities who deemed them unfit to care for their children. RÚV reports that the institutions resembled hospitals: painted white and with minimal furniture, where staff only attended to children’s physical needs but deprived them of the touch, love, and stimulation required for healthy development. Parents were only allowed to visit at very restricted times and then only to see their children through a glass barrier.

The orphanages were harshly criticised even during their operation. “It’s necessary to review how many children were placed in the orphanages during their period of operation; their health after their stay and how well they managed to find their footing in life,” the letter from the five men states. The men will meet with Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson tomorrow.

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