Case of Alþingi Protestor Referred to District Prosecutor

alþingi protestor

According to Morgunblaðið, the case concerning an asylum seeker who protested this past spring at Alþingi has been referred to the district prosecutor.

Highly-Criticised Immigration Bill Passed in Iceland

The incident occurred on March 4 while Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, the Minister of Justice, was at the podium presenting presenting proposed changes to the controversial immigration bill. The man, an asylum seeker from Iraq, shouted “you don’t have a heart” and climbed over a handrail in the upper gallery of the Alþingi hall. The man was removed by security guards.

Investigation concluded

According to Morgunblaðið, the investigation into the case has been concluded, and it was referred to the district prosecutor.

The prosecutor’s office has not yet taken up the case, and no further information is available.

Read more about the immigration bill that provoked the protest.

 

Icelandic As A Weapon

Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson is known both as a fervent defender of the language who advocates for its protection, as well as someone ready, willing, and able to shut down conversations about the language’s survival when they turn xenophobic, while at the same time fielding questions regarding history, etymology, and Icelandic inflections arguably one of the more […]

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Coordinate Support for Foreign Students Across Iceland

Reykjavík school

Iceland’s new Directorate of Education and School Services will consolidate the reception of children of foreign origin into Iceland’s school systems on a national level, RÚV reports. Its director says there is no need to reinvent the wheel at each school when it comes to supporting foreign students. The Directorate will also implement Icelandic and maths competency testing to replace current standardised tests.

New database and student assessments

The Directorate is a new institution that began operations on April 1. It aims to promote excellent education for all children in Iceland through strong support and targeted services for preschools, primary schools, and secondary schools across the country.

Some of the Directorate’s first projects include creating a database of all students in the country’s primary schools to keep track of which schools students have attended and which services they have used. The Directorate will also institute a new assessment to better evaluate children’s reading comprehension and maths skills, replacing current standardised tests. “This way we get a better picture of how the children are doing, both their status and their progress,” stated Þórdís Jóna Sigurðardóttir, the new institution’s director.

Built on previous success

Þórdís stated that the Directorate will also introduce a project called Menntun, móttaka, menning (Education, Reception, Culture), or MEMM, which will coordinate the reception and education of children of foreign origin on a national level. “It is based on a project that the City of Reykjavík has run called Miðja máls og læsis [The Centre for Language and Literacy],” Þórdís explains. That project is now under the umbrella of the Directorate of Education and School Services and will coordinate the reception of foreign students across the entire country.

Þórdís says it is important to build on what has been done well in the system in order to welcome children from different backgrounds as well as possible. “Whether they are refugee children or children who are moving to the country for other reasons. That it’s not being thought up individually in each and every school or by each and every teacher, but that they can turn to professionals.” The program will provide support both to municipalities and to individual schools.

Agree to Action Plan for Icelandic as a Second Language

lilja dögg alfreðsdóttir

Alþingi approved an action plan on the Icelandic language on Wednesday, May 8. The action plan, which is the result of collaboration between five separate ministries, will run through the year 2026 and include some 22 measures intended to make Icelandic language learning more accessible to foreign residents, preserve the Icelandic language, and otherwise support the development of the language.

The plan can be viewed here, in Icelandic.

A positive view of language is central

The introduction to the plan reads as follows: “The importance of supporting the Icelandic language in government agreements is discussed. There is an emphasis on children and young people utilizing the language and support for children of foreign origin and their families. Icelandic is considered a precious resource that should be a creative and fertile part of the environment. It is particularly emphasized that attention must be paid to Icelandic language instruction for children and young people, adult immigrants, and Icelandic learners to meet changing conditions in society. Efforts to strengthen the position of Icelandic in the digital world, with an emphasis on language technology, will continue.”

The plan likewise states that a positive view towards language ought to be central to Icelandic language policy, stressing both the preservation of the language, and adapting it to a changing society and technological environment. This statement could also be understood to mean that Icelandic language policy ought to focus on language and language learning as a possible means of integration into, and not exclusion from, Icelandic society.

22 measures to support the Icelandic language

The plan includes a total of 22 suggested measures. Some of the most salient proposals are listed below.

  • Icelandic language lessons for foreign residents, which are integrated into work hours.
  • Increased quality of Icelandic instruction for foreign residents.
  • Further development of language technologies according to the Language Technology Plan.
  • Increased dubbing and subtitles in Icelandic.
  • Online courses and distance learning for Icelandic as a second language.
  • Online Icelandic courses at the BA level.
  • Improvements in the Icelandic abilities of staff at preschool and primary schools.

Ambitious and accessible

Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir stated: “The plan is ambitious and accessible, which, in our opinion, will ensure that actions are followed up effectively. For example, the experimental projects that are part of the action plan ensure that the language is alive and constantly requires new ways to evolve. What works, and what doesn’t? An example of this initiative is the restructuring of Icelandic language instruction for foreign workers who work with the elderly, sick, or disabled in hospitals, nursing homes, or home care. The plan also proposes that experimental projects be conducted in places where instruction is carried out in two languages ​​and peer support needs to be developed.”

The action plan is also linked to many projects that are currently being developed in collaboration between ministries and institutions, including immigration and refugee policy, education policy until 2030, a comprehensive review of higher education, and the tourism industry action plan until 2030.

Read more about Icelandic language learning initiatives.

UNHCR Flags Issues in Icelandic Immigration Law Amendments

Guðrún hafsteinsdóttir

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has voiced significant concerns about a proposed amendment to Iceland’s international protection laws, highlighting, among other things, issues with asylum caps and family reunification delays. The organisation warns that the draft amendment could violate international obligations by imposing an asylum seeker cap and delaying family reunions, potentially hindering refugees’ integration and violating their rights.

Six main areas of concern

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed several concerns about Justice Minister Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir’s draft bill to amend laws on international protection, in an opinion that has been published on the website of Parliament.

The document highlights six main areas of the amendment in need of review: defining Refugee in accordance with international and regional law, the proposed asylum ceiling, the proposed differentiation in rights depending on migration/protection status, short-term residence permits and mandatory review of protection needs, the concepts of First Country of Asylum and Safe Third Country in the amendment, and the introduction of a statutory waiting period for Family Reunification.

As noted by Vísir, the authorities have repeatedly stated that the aim of the amendments is to align the laws with immigration legislation in other Nordic countries. However, in its opinion, UNHCR points out that in some cases, there are significant issues.

Asylum cap

Among other things, the UNHCR emphasises that international protection must not be restricted by a maximum limit on the number of asylum seekers that can be admitted each year. The organisation argues that such a cap – suggesting Iceland cannot realistically handle more than 4,000 asylum applications annually – would contradict the universal right to seek asylum and the protection needs of those arriving.

Furthermore, implementing a ceiling that results in denying access to asylum procedures would breach Iceland’s commitments under the 1951 Convention and European refugee law. Additionally, using this limit as a basis for reducing standards could weaken European unity and shift, rather than share responsibilities for asylum seekers across states.

This approach may also conflict with the EU framework that dictates the responsibility sharing and reception conditions for asylum seekers.

Family reunification

In its opinion, the UNHCR also discusses proposed changes to provisions on family reunification, which the agency deems necessary to ensure the right to family life. Prolonged separation can have very detrimental effects on both the asylum seeker and their family.

The UNHCR highlights that reunification mechanisms for refugees are crucial not only for reuniting separated families but also for ensuring refugees can exercise their fundamental right to family life, as recognised by international and regional frameworks to which Iceland is a signatory. The negative effects of prolonged separation on the well-being of refugees and their families can significantly hinder their ability to integrate and contribute to society in their asylum countries.

UNHCR further stresses that Iceland is a member of ExCom, which has emphasised that countries must do everything to reunite families and that family reunifications should occur as quickly as possible. The agency, therefore, objects to changes that would prevent family reunification until an individual who has received subsidiary protection in the country has resided here for two years and had their residence permit renewed.

From the amendment: “It is proposed that relatives of foreigners who have received subsidiary protection or humanitarian residence permits in this country do not gain the right to family reunification until at least two years after the granting of subsidiary protection or a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, provided that the individual has had their residence permit renewed.”

Differentiation of rights depending on status

UNHCR further advises that individuals recognized as 1951 Convention refugees and those with subsidiary protection status should receive identical types and lengths of permits. This recommendation aims to prevent discrimination and ensure equal treatment under international and European laws, which only permit differentiated treatment when objectively and reasonably justified.

UNHCR notes that, from its experience, both categories of protection beneficiaries share similar needs for protection, face the same integration opportunities and challenges, and have comparable prospects for returning to their home countries. Typically, those with subsidiary protection are not able to return home any sooner than recognised refugees.

To read the UNHCR’s opinion in full, click here.

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

Deep North Episode 67: A Different Story

Karitas Hrundar Palsdottir

Icelandic, it is often said, is an impossible language to learn. Beyond the the cases and declensions, however, lies a simple fact – there are not many resources for learning the language. Karítas Hrundar Pálsdóttir is trying to change this with a series of books aimed at adult learners of the Icelandic language.

Read the story here.

Icelandic Government Invites Immigrants to Shape Policy

Iceland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour is inviting immigrants to participate in shaping policy on integration and inclusion. The ministry is inviting immigrants in Iceland to an open consultation meeting in Reykjavík this Wednesday, February 28. Polish and English interpretation will be provided at the meeting.

Last November, the government of Iceland published its first-ever “green paper” on immigrant issues. The document is a status assessment on immigrant and refugee issues in Iceland and identifies opportunities and challenges for the future. The green paper has been published in Icelandic, English, and Polish, a first for the Icelandic government.

First-ever comprehensive integration policy in the works

As a follow up to the green paper, the Icelandic government will work on a white paper on immigrant issues. This will serve as the first draft of the country’s first-ever comprehensive policy on immigrant and refugee issues. The white paper will be developed into a parliamentary resolution on immigration and refugee policy.

Immigration brings large economic benefits

The most recent OECD Economic Survey of Iceland found that immigration in Iceland is rising faster than in other Nordic countries and that it brings large economic benefits. The median age of immigrants in Iceland is lower than in any other OECD country, at between 30-35 years, and their participation rate is higher than in any other country, at over 85%. The survey emphasised that Iceland should step up its efforts to help immigrants integrate, such as through better access to services, addressing housing needs, and establishing more effective language training courses.

To gather data for the white paper, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour has already held focus group meetings around the country, and the discussions from this Wednesday’s meeting will be integrated into the paper as well.

This Wednesday’s meeting in Reykjavík will take place at 5:00 PM at Hotel Reykjavík Grand.

Iceland to Tighten Asylum Regulations

Guðrún hafsteinsdóttir

The Icelandic government aims to reduce the number of applications for international protection and asylum with a new series of measures presented today. The processing time for applications for international protection will be shortened to 90 days on average and “efficient deportation” will be implemented, according to a government press release. A special team will review around 1,400 pending applications from Venezuelan citizens, and most will be rejected, the Minister of Justice stated.

Tightening legislation on asylum seekers

The measures could, in part, be seen as a follow-up to legislation on immigration passed earlier this year, which tightened regulations on asylum seekers and has been criticised by human rights groups. Seven ministries are involved in the implementation of the new measures: the Ministries of Justice, Social Affairs and Labour, Universities and Innovation, Health, Infrastructure, Culture and Trade, and Education and Children.

The measures include shortening the processing time of applications for international protection to an average of 90 days at each administrative level. They also include establishing “residences” for applicants for international protection, ostensibly the detention centres that Justice Minister Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir introduced in a draft parliamentary bill last month.

Aim to cut costs, redirect funding

“The authorities intend to reduce expenses and better prioritise the funds that go toward the issue,” the government press release states. “By reducing the number of applications that do not meet the criteria for protection and increasing the efficiency of processing applications, money is saved, which will partly be used to increase contributions to ensure Icelandic language teaching, increased assistance to children in schools, and social education that helps people actively participate in Icelandic society.”

Some of the educational measures outlined in the press release include increased access to affordable and work-related Icelandic language education, increasing the number of Icelandic language teaching specialists, and increased support for children of foreign origin during their first three years in Iceland.

Other measures include better utilisation of human resources among immigrants, including by establishing a system that more efficiently recognises their education from abroad, as well as facilitating residence and work permits for those who are self-employed and come from outside the European Economic Area.

Venezuelan applications processed in six months

A special team will be established to speed up the processing of applications for international protection from Venezuelans. The aim is to process some 1,400 pending applications within six months.

“The vast majority, almost all, of these applications, will receive a rejection,” Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir told RÚV. She asserts that the changes to asylum seeker regulations will bring them closer in line with legislation in other Nordic countries.

Deep North Episode 60: Boom Town

iceland immigration

If you’re looking for a community in Iceland that has been profoundly changed by tourism, there is hardly a better place to look than Vík, the urban centre of the Mýrdalshreppur municipality. Over the past eight years or so, building after building has sprung up in the town: a two-storey Icewear store opened in 2017, a 72-room hotel in 2018. Since 2015, the municipality’s population has nearly doubled, from 480 to 877. Ten years ago, there may have been one or two places in town for a traveller to sit down for dinner. Now there are enough restaurants for Tripadvisor to compile the top ten.

And along with the tour boom, the community in Vík has grown in recent years as well. Here’s how this South Iceland community is making the best of it. Read the story here.

Iceland News Review: Eruption Near Grindavík, Reykjavík’s New Mayor And More!

INR

In this episode of Iceland News Review, we go in-depth on last Sunday’s eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula and what this could mean for the people of Grindavík. Can they ever return and if not, where will they live? How will the government help them? There’s a lot of options on the table.

Also, Reykjavík has a new mayor with an historic twist; good news for Palestinian children in Iceland; one town stands out as having the highest per capita immigrant population; along with weather, road conditions, and much more!

Iceland News Review brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!