Over 13% of Icelanders Live Abroad

Tenerife elderly senior Spain

Over 13% of Icelandic citizens live abroad, according to the latest figures from Registers Iceland. While 324,193 Icelanders live in Iceland, 49,870 live outside of the country. About three-fifths of Icelandic emigrants live in other Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland). RÚV reported first.

Denmark tops the list for relocation

Denmark, Iceland’s former coloniser, is the most popular country for Icelanders to relocate to, with 11,982 Icelandic citizens living there currently. This represents 24% of all Icelanders who live abroad or nearly one-quarter. Norway and Sweden are in second and third place, home to 9,250 and 9,046 Icelanders respectively.

Number of Icelanders living abroad growing

The US and UK round out the top five, with 6,583 Icelanders living in the United States and 2,518 in the United Kingdom. Over 900 Icelanders live in Spain, a popular vacation destination for Icelandic citizens. In most of the top 15 countries on the list, the number of Icelandic residents has been steadily increasing. The same is true of the number of Icelandic citizens living abroad in general. In 2004, they numbered 29,591, and at the end of 2023, they numbered 49,870.

It bears noting that Iceland’s population has also grown in recent years, though not as much as previously believed.


Nordic Countries Doing More to Help Gazans than Icelandic Ministers Said

Protestors outside US Embassy in Reykjavík

Contrary to what both Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir and Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir have previously stated on the subject, other Nordic countries have in fact assisted non-citizens in leaving Gaza and reuniting with their families. This applied to both people in Gaza who were Nordic citizens as well as Gazans with residence permits for those countries. Whether Iceland will change its current policy in light of this is not yet clear.

Family reunification

About 100 Palestinians in Gaza already have Icelandic residence permits, based on Iceland’s law on family reunification. Those with legal residence in Iceland are amongst those who have the right to also apply for their closest relations to be granted the same.

Palestinians in Iceland have been imploring the Icelandic government since the conflict in Gaza began again to help retrieve their family members from Gaza. RÚV reports that some 24 organisations in Iceland have encouraged the government to do the same.

What the ministers said

Speaking to MBL on December 29th, Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir said that as far as she knew, no Nordic countries were implementing family reunification. She elaborated on this on January 4th, saying her wording had been inexact; that she had been referring to Nordic authorities actively retrieving people from Gaza based on family reunification. The Icelandic government has no obligation to do so, she contended, and Iceland helping people leave Gaza would be to do something no other Nordic country was doing.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said on RÚV’s roundtable discussion show Kastljósið that other Nordic countries were only helping their own citizens leave Gaza. On the same show, on January 22nd, she said that the Directorate of Immigration was prioritising family reunification applications from Gaza, and whether or not to help people leave Gaza had been examined. She also said that her understanding was that other Nordic countries had only retrieved either their own citizens, or those who had gotten residence permits before October 7th and had lived in their respective Nordic country before, but that she could not confirm this information.

The reality

RÚV reached out to the foreign ministries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, to ask what their actual policies were on people with Nordic residence permits in Gaza.

Sweden has assisted 550 people in leaving Gaza, both citizens and residence permit holders alike, according to their foreign ministry. The Foreign Ministry of Norway said that they have assisted 270 people in leaving Gaza, including 38 who were either residence permit holders or were the parents of Norwegian children. Finland does not make a distinction between Finnish citizens and residence permit holders, their foreign ministry said. In addition, close family members will receive help if they are fleeing with a citizen or residence permit holder. Where Denmark is concerned, their foreign ministry said that they have, in exceptional cases, assisted close family members of children with Danish citizenship when fleeing Gaza, if they are accompanied by their Danish children.

A change in policy for Iceland?

Following up on this report, Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir was then asked by RÚV if Iceland was going to begin helping residence permit holders for Iceland leave Gaza. She responded as before; that Iceland is not obliged to help people flee Gaza, adding that Iceland has more generous conditions for family reunification than other Nordic countries.

When asked by the reporter, “Why are these applications approved if they are not intended to help people?,” the Justice Minister replied, “This is the procedure that has always been in place […] when people apply for family reunification, they themselves have to come to this country and bear the costs of it.”

49,000 Icelanders (13.2% of the population) Currently Live Abroad

pedestrian street Laugavegur Reykjavík

According to new data from Registers Iceland, almost 49,000 Icelanders have a registered legal residence outside Iceland. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway remain the most popular destinations among Icelanders.

The Nordic countries remain the most popular

On Wednesday, January 25, Registers Iceland published data on the number of Icelandic citizens living abroad (as of December 1, 2022). According to the data, 48,951 Icelanders live outside the country, or 13.2% of the total population. This figure has increased by more than five thousand over the period of a single year, Registers Iceland notes.

The Nordic countries remain the most popular destination for Icelanders: 62.1% of Icelandic citizens who have a registered legal domicile abroad are registered in the Nordic countries. 11,590 Icelanders currently reside in Denmark (or over 3% of the population), 9,278 in Norway, and 8,933 in Sweden. Approximately 30,000 Icelanders live in these three countries.

6,492 Icelanders live in the United States (which is followed by Great Britain, Germany, and Canada).

Only one registered Icelandic citizen in 15 countries

As noted by Registers Iceland, as of December 1, 2022, Icelanders had a registered legal residence in a total of 100 countries out of the 193 member states of the United Nations. The article also contains the following, interesting tidbit:

“It is interesting to note that 15 countries had only a single Icelandic citizen with a registered legal domicile. These are the countries Albania, Angola, Belize, Ecuador, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Panama and Somalia.”

Nordic Bishops Gather for Conference in Akureyri, Discuss ‘the Church in a Changing World’

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.

The Nordic Bishops’ Conference took place in Akureyri, North Iceland this week, RÚV reports. Forty-five bishops were in attendance. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, Bishop of Iceland, says that gatherings such as this one, where attendees can share their experiences and learn from one another, are important for the work of the church.

The conference is held every three years in one of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden). Agnes was among the organizers of this year’s event.

“There’s always a theme that we lay out and have lectures about,” she explained. This year, the theme was the church in a changing world because “naturally, a lot has changed.”

The theme was intentionally broad, giving the bishops an opportunity to discuss, among other things, climate change, democracy, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. Agnes says it’s important for the Nordic bishops to meet regularly “because we have many common issues and most of the ones we’re dealing with are the same everywhere, so we need to fortify ourselves and together, find ways of responding to all the changes that are taking place.”

Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Sweden, agrees. “It’s important to meet for personal reasons. Bishops need to gather and exchange experience,” she said. “Our churches have much in common so we’re familiar with each other’s work, but they are also different in ways that makes the conference inspiring and exciting. From the church’s point of view, the conference is important because we in the Nordic countries need to work together to strengthen our actions and grow together spiritually.”

Moderna Use on Pause in Iceland

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has decided that Iceland will halt the use of the Moderna vaccine in Iceland. RÚV reports that the decision was made after reviewing new data from the Nordic countries, which shows an increased incidence of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle (or myocaridum), as well as pericarditis, an inflammation in the membrane surrounding the heart (or pericardium), among people vaccinated with Moderna.

The decision was announced on Friday on the website of the Directorate of Health.

Sweden currently restricts the use of Moderna to individuals who were born after 1991. Norway and Denmark recommend that Pfizer be used in lieu of Moderna for children aged 12 – 17. Iceland has echoed the latter recommendation, stating in a press release in August that “It is preferable to use the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for this age group in Iceland. The supply of this vaccine is the largest, the experience of using it for the age group is greater than with Moderna and it is easier to transport and use in smaller places all over the country, as there are fewer doses in each bottle than with Moderna.”

Friday’s announcement goes on to say that for the past two months, Moderna has almost exclusively been used for booster shots for those who received the single-shot Janssen [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine or for elderly or immunocompromised individuals who received a prior two-shot vaccination. Of those individuals whose first shot was Moderna, only a very few received a second shot that was also Moderna.

The Directorate of Health notes that Iceland has a sufficient supply of the Pfizer vaccine for booster shots for people with preexisting conditions and initial vaccination for those who have yet to be vaccinated. Pfizer’s vaccine will, therefore, be used while further information is sought on the safety of using Moderna for booster shots.

Around 20,000 Icelanders are fully vaccinated with Moderna.




Angela Merkel to be Guest of Honour at Meeting of Nordic Leaders

German chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with Nordic prime ministers in Reykjavík next week, Vísir reports. The international leaders plan to discuss issues related to climate, the Arctic region, equality, and security, among other things.

Angela Merkel will attend the meeting on August 20 as Icelandic prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s special guest. In addition to leaders from Scandinavia, the premiers of the Åland Islands and Greenland will also be in attendance.

Per a government announcement, the group will particularly “…look for opportunities to increase cooperation between the Nordics and Germany in addressing challenges on the international stage, not least the consequences of climate change and support for sustainable development.” Attendees will also make visits to notable places around Reykjavík, including to the Harpa concert hall, the Hellisheiði Power Station, Þingvellir, and Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’ home, Gljúfrasteinn.

The German chancellor will also attend several bilateral meetings in conjunction with the prime ministers’ meeting. One such meeting will be held by the Nordic CEOs for a Sustainable Future, 14 Nordic companies that have announced their intention to collaborate on the EU’s sustainable development goals.

19 Tons of Garbage Collected From Beaches

Just over nineteen tons of garbage were collected from Icelandic beaches in the last two weeks, as part of the Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day. It is believed that around 80% of the garbage comes from the fishing industry.

The initiative, overseen by the Environment Agency of Iceland, focused on beaches and shorelines on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Hópsnes peninsula near the Southwestern town of Grindavík, and Hornafjörður in Southeast Iceland. The Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day is a collaborative project of environmental organizations from the Nordic countries. The day itself took place on May 6 in Iceland and is a part of the Hreinsum Ísland (Let’s Clean Iceland) initiative, spearheaded by the Icelandic Environment Association and Blái Herinn (The Blue army). The public can access info about the cleanups and also registers their own clean up in a special map where all the cleanup data is collected.

This is the second year in a row that Snæfellsnes has participated in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day. Four different locations were cleaned on the peninsula, with as many as 40 volunteers taking part in efforts in the town of Stykkishölmur and anywhere from a dozen to 30 participants in other locations. Grundafjördúr mayor Björg Ágústsdóttir said the weather was beautiful for the volunteer effort.

“The amount never surprises me. I know there’s one ton of garbage per kilometre in Icelandic beaches, it doesn’t matter where you look,” said Tómas J. Knútsson, head of the Blái Herinn organization. “If we’re far away from settlements, the trash is about 80% fishing gear and 20% other forms of trash, which could have drifted from land or thrown overboard.” Closer to settlements, there’s more of household refuse. “Luckily, public interest is increasing, and we’re seeing more folks taking matters into their own hands in their hometown. For me, that’s the biggest positive,” said Tómas.

Iceland Takes Part in Nordic Beach Cleaning Day

Residents of several municipalities in Iceland took part in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day on Saturday. RÚV reports that the initiative, overseen by the Environment Agency of Iceland, focused on beaches and shorelines on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Hópsnes peninsula near the Southwestern town of Grindavík, and Suðurfjörur on the Hornafjörður fjord in Southeast Iceland.

This is the second year in a row that Snæfellsnes has participated in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day. Four different locations were cleaned on the peninsula, with as many as 40 volunteers taking part in efforts in the town of Stykkishölmur and anywhere from a dozen to 30 participants in other locations. Grundafjördúr mayor Björg Ágústsdóttir said the weather was beautiful for the volunteer effort.

Björg also noted that as people who live close to the sea, residents of Snæfellsnes generally place particular importance on having clean shores and oceans. Interest in environmental issues has, nevertheless, been increasing in recent years, she said.

Teams in Snæfellsnes combed the areas along shorelines and the Ring Road, picking up metal, plastic, and sticks and wood debris. Björg said that what really surprised her was that there wasn’t more garbage to collect.

Overall, organizers were pleased with the level of commitment from residents, although not surprised. “We live in a nature paradise,” Björg remarked, “and it’s important that it be clean.”

Iceland, Denmark, and Norway Collaborate to Lower Drug Prices

Prozac pills

Iceland will collaborate with Danish and Norwegian authorities to aim to lower the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, RÚV reports. An agreement between the countries was signed in Reykjavík yesterday. María Heimisdóttir, CEO of Icelandic Health Insurance (IHI), says the co-operation is not only about lowering drug prices for the public, but also patient safety.

“There have been too many examples of drug shortages happening and we firmly expect that purchasing [pharmaceuticals] in larger quantities with our neighbouring countries could reduce drug shortages and thus increase patient safety and that’s of course the most important thing,” María stated. She added that pharmaceutical drugs have often been priced higher in Iceland than other countries, an issue which the project also hopes to address.

Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir told reporters it was “very gratifying” to see the collaboration realised, as the project has been in the works for a long time. By launching joint invitations to pharmaceutical companies to bid on the sale of products, Svandís explained, the trio of countries would be in a better position to negotiate lower prices, particularly for certain types of very expensive drugs. Svandís refrained from commenting on which specific drugs were in question, though she stated her hope that the project would start having an impact in the next year or so.

Kristín Eiríksdóttir and Kristín Ómarsdóttir Nominated for Nordic Council Literature Prize

Authors Kristín Eiríksdóttir and Kristín Ómarsdóttir have been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. Kristín Eiriksdóttir was nominated for her novel Elín, ýmislegt (English title, A Fist or a Heart) and Kristín Ómarsdóttir was nominated for her poetry collection Kóngulær í sýningargluggum (‘Spiders in the Display Windows’).

The authors were nominated alongside 11 others from Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Norway, the Sami Language Area, Sweden, and Åland. The winner will be announced on October 29 in Sotckholm and the winner will receive the prize’s Northern Lights statuette and DKK 350,000 [ISK 6.36 million; $53,182; €46,904].

Last year, the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize went to Icelandic author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir for her novel Ör (English title Hotel Silence). An Icelandic author has won seven times since the prize first started being awarded in 1962.

Read the full list of nominees and the motivations for each nomination, in English, here.