Hell’s Angels Expelled from Iceland

Twenty-two members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang were deported from Iceland on Saturday morning. The Hell’s Angels are one of several motorcycle gangs that are gaining ground in Iceland and the expelled members have suspected ties to organized crime. Vísir reported first.

The individuals had apparently come to Iceland to attend a gathering in the capital area. Icelandic police have protocols in place to address the arrival of “people connected to motorcycle clubs” and were ready and waiting when 15 members of the Hell’s Angels landed at the airport from Germany. These individuals were detained and questioned while authorities determined whether they would be allowed to enter the country. No arrests were made at the airport, although seven of their fellow club members were stopped and arrested by police on the road to/from the airport on the same day. Those individuals had flown to Iceland from Sweden.

RÚV reports that the cases of five other Hell’s Angels members who arrived from Denmark are still under review, but it is assumed that they came to Iceland to attend the same gathering.

This is not the first time this year that members of international motorcycle clubs have been expelled from Iceland upon arrival. In February, a high-ranking member of the Bandidos motorcycle club in Sweden was deported; three members of the Finnish Bandidos club were deported in October 2021. Bandidos MC is another motorcycle with international chapters that is believed to have established a foothold in Iceland.

American Government Taking Bids for Airport Construction Project

Army planes at Keflavík

The United States government has published a call requesting contractor bids for the design and construction of a new security area at the Keflavík airport, Vísir reports.

According to the ad posted on FedBizOpps.gov, the project will consist of the construct of “an aircraft apron expansion east of the existing hot cargo pad, a dangerous cargo pad with an access taxiway and a gravel beddown site with a utility enclosure.” The current cost estimate for the project is just over ISK 6 billion [$47.9 million; €42.7 million] and will be funded entirely by the American government.

Only bids from American and Icelandic companies will be accepted for the project. According to information from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, construction is scheduled to begin next year and is supposed to be completed by 2023.

“One Step Too Close to Having a Military Base Here Again”

The US Air Force intends to spend ISK 7 billion ($56.2 million/€49.5 million) on construction projects at Keflavík airport, RÚV reports. The purpose behind this construction is, according to the US military, to ensure that two flight squadrons of 18 to 24 fighter jets each could be accommodated at the airport 24 hours a day.

According to the US Air Force’s 2020 budget, roughly ISK 2.2 billion ($18 million/€15.8 million) will go toward the development of a special area for the handling of dangerous cargo, such as weaponry, ISK 871.2 million ($7 million/€6.2 million) will go towards the construction of a portable military facility, and ISK 3.98 billion ($32 million/€28.1 million) will go toward laying more tarmac for US military use.

At the same time that the US government will be embarking on its own defense construction projects at the airport, the Icelandic government will also be reinforcing NATO facilities at Keflavík as well. Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says that these so-called “defense structures” are vital to Iceland’s security, particularly flight security, making investment in NATO maintenance “a priority.”

On Thursday, Alþingi agreed to transfer ISK 300 million ($2.4 million/€2.1 million) of its agreed-upon funds to go towards the development and maintenance of NATO facilities at Keflavík airport. Two Left-Green MPs, Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir and Andrés Ingi Jónsson, abstained from the proceedings. “This was, above all, a way to show our dissatisfaction with this decision,” remarked Andrés Ingi.

Andrés Ingi also pointed out that there has been an increased military presence in Iceland of late. “These are projects that have been in the pipeline for a while and NATO preparedness [initiatives] at the airport have increased a great deal in recent years – there have been soldiers in the dozens there every single day for the last three years.”

“And then,” continued Andrés Ingi, “in order to do submarine surveillance flights, the American military wants to build up facilities and this has clearly lead to the Icelandic government contributing money as well, in order to improve these facilities. And I think that with this, we’ve gotten one step too close to having a military base here again.”

Turkey Denounces “Disrespectful” Treatment of Football Team at Airport

The Turkish government has issued a diplomatic note to Iceland denouncing what it is calling “disrespectful” and “violent” behaviour against the country’s men’s national football team, aa.com reports. The football team arrived in Keflavík airport on Sunday night in advance of their Euro 2020 qualifying match against Iceland on Tuesday. They claim that they were then subjected to excessive search and security measures at passport control and were held for around three hours before being allowed to leave the airport.

A representative from Isavia, the company that owns and manages the Keflavík airport, told RÚV that per international regulations, airport employees were obliged to conduct a security check on the team and that it was more intensive because the flight on which the team arrived departed from an airport that is not part of the One Stop Security area whose security protocols apply to all airports in the EEA. Isavia maintains that as such, all of the passengers on the flight were subjected to the same security checks – including Icelanders. Isavia also says that the security checks took an unusually long time on Sunday night because passengers were traveling with a high number of electronic devices and liquids in their luggage, all of which needed to be individually screened.

Isavia contests Turkey’s claims that players were held for three hours, however: they say that the security wait was 80 minutes from the time that the aircraft arrived. The flight arrived at 7.40pm, representatives say, and the last passenger went through customs at roughly 9.00pm.

Feelings are running particularly high in the wake of the event, with some players on the Icelandic squad and Icelandic sports journalists even receiving threats over the matter. It’s likely that tensions were exacerbated during an interview that Turkish midfielder Emre Belozoglu gave after going through security; an individual who has since been identified and is presumed to be a Belgian national stuck a dishwashing brush in the player’s face like a microphone while he was being interviewed by reporters.

Turkey and Iceland do not maintain embassies in each other’s countries, but Fazli Corman, Turkey’s ambassador in Norway, is apparently on his way to Iceland to follow up on the situation. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also posted about the incident on Twitter, saying “The treatment towards our national team at the Iceland airport is not acceptable in terms of both diplomatic and humanitarian practices.”

Passengers Flying to USA Face “Increased Security Requirements”

Increased aviation security requirements are now being implemented for passengers traveling to the United States from Iceland. A recent announcement posted on the Icelandair website notes that as of September 30, passengers should allow additional time at the airport to go through these new steps, which include passenger interviews.

“These implementations should not cause any delays, but we ask passengers to show patience and understanding while these requirements are being implemented,” read the announcement. “Interviews will be conducted with passengers going to the United States before check-in and consequently the check-in process may take a little longer than usual.”