Icelandic Police Officers Order Stripper During Work Trip in Poland

police station Hlemmur

Three policewomen from Reykjavík Metropolitan Police ordered the services of a male stripper during a work trip in Poland, RÚV reports. They were there attending a course on hate crimes and extremism that included a visit to Auschwitz. Reykjavík’s Chief of Police Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir has refused to tell reporters whether the three women are still employed in the police service.

Took and shared pictures

According to RÚV’s sources, the incident occurred just after the course had finished. The policewomen were transferring hotels and had a male stripper in the car they were being transported in. The policewomen took pictures of the entertainment and sent them to their colleagues. Around 100 police officers from Iceland attended the course, some 15% of all Icelandic police, as well as a few lawyers.

Unknown whether officers face consequences

Reykjavík’s Chief of Police Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir stated that the conduct of the officers in question is being reviewed and is considered a serious incident. She refused to comment on whether the policewomen had been suspended or were still on the job, citing privacy regulations.

In an interview on Rás 1, lawyer and former MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir stressed the importance of investigating the incident thoroughly. “Who was this person who was bought? What is that person’s background? We know who works these jobs elsewhere in the world, often these are victims of human trafficking.”

Polish Studies Minor Established at University of Iceland

The University of Iceland is inaugurating a new program this fall: a minor in Polish Studies. RÚV reports that the university’s Polish language courses have been popular, particularly among elementary school teachers. Some 20,000 people of Polish origin live in Iceland, making it the largest single immigrant group in the country.

The new program has been in the works and is partially funded by a grant from NAWA, the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange. The institution will send a visiting instructor to Iceland this summer, who will start teaching in the fall semester.

Eyjólfur Már Sigurðsson, Director of the University of Iceland’s Language Centre, says the course of study will be a 60-credit minor, which students can take alongside another course of study. “This is primarily a language study course for beginners, but also a cultural course. That’s why we want to call it Polish Studies, because we are teaching both the language and the culture.”

Read More: Iceland’s Polish Community

Some of the program’s courses will be taught in the late afternoons and will be accessible to the general public through the university’s continuing education institute, Endurmenntun HÍ.

Katarzyna Rabęda has been teaching Polish at the University of Iceland for five years. She says that most Polish language students are teachers who want to better connect with Polish schoolchildren, followed by Icelanders who are connected to Polish people through family ties – usually a Polish spouse or children. Katarzyna says that the program has been popular but rather limited and welcomes the upcoming changes, which will allow more time for instructors to cover Polish culture, films, music and history.

Iceland Opens Embassy in Poland

minister of foreign affairs iceland

Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir is in Warsaw today for the opening of Iceland’s embassy there.

In a statement to Morgunblaðið, the minster said: “”The deep respect and friendship that exist between Iceland and Poland is of great value to Iceland, and it is with pride that I take part in opening our embassy in Warsaw on the day of Icelandic Sovereignty.”

In her statement, she also pointed out that Poland has had an embassy in Iceland since 2013, and that some 20,000 Polish citizens reside in Iceland, accounting for 40% of all immigrants in Iceland.

Read more: Iceland to Open Embassy in Warsaw this Autumn

The minister also stated:

“Today the Icelandic embassy in Warsaw will be opened, on the day Icelanders celebrate their sovereignty in 1918. Around the same time, at the end of 1918, an independent and sovereign Poland was rising from the ruins of the First World War. Iceland recognized the Republic of Poland in January 1922 – exactly a century ago – and diplomatic relations officially began in 1946.

Since the end of the Second World War, the relations between the countries have been strong and growing in many areas. The most important thing in my mind is that a large number of people from Poland and of Polish origin have enriched Icelandic society by settling here for a longer or shorter period of time. […]

Poland has had an embassy in Iceland since 2013, and our relations on many joint platforms are exemplary. However, it is not just to maintain reciprocal relations I made the decision to open an embassy in Warsaw, but I recognize the fact that Poland is one of the leading countries in Europe in cultural, political, scientific and economic terms.”

Read more about Iceland’s Polish community here.

 

Polish Deputy Minister: Support Language Learning in Both Nations

Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk

While on an official visit to Iceland, Polish deputy minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek voiced his approval for mutual language learning in both nations.

According to the deputy minister, Polish children should be able to learn their mother tongue in Iceland, but Icelandic should also be offered at a university level in Poland.

Read more: Polish Classes Offered to School Staff in Reykjanes

Poles constitute a large portion of the immigrant population in Iceland. According to Statistics Iceland, some 20,500 Poles claimed residency in Iceland in 2021, comprising nearly 40% of the immigrant population and over 5% of the total population.

As such, Poland and Iceland have a very important relationship. There are, however, fears that not all Polish immigrants have had the opportunity to properly integrate into Icelandic society. Increased language education in both countries could be a way to better integrate Polish immigrants into Icelandic society.

Read more: Fifty-Six Percent of Polish Immigrants Experienced Discrimination

In a public address, the deputy minister stated that Icelandic was already offered at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and that there were plans to extend Icelandic education to the University of Gdańsk. “It’s one of the things we’ve done to show that we take our relationship with Iceland very seriously,” he stated.

Mr. Szynkowski vel Sek also noted the need for more Polish-Icelandic translators, saying that as the connection between the two nations has become so significant, it is important to have specialists with good command of both languages.

‘It’s the worst country I’ve ever been to’: Polish Football Player Leaves Iceland, Cites Xenophobia, Discrimination

Polish football player Chris Jastrzembski, formerly of UMF Selfoss in South Iceland, joined the team prior to the start of the current season and made 13 league and cup appearances before transferring to Prey Veng in Cambodia last month. Vísir reports that Jastrzembski endured repeated xenophobic comments and discrimination on the basis of his nationality while living and working in Iceland.

The 25-year-old defender opened up about his experience in Iceland in an interview with the Polish paper Gazeta on Thursday.

“It’s the worst country I’ve ever been to,” he said. “I will never go back. Many Poles live there and they’re fine, but my experience of Icelanders is terrible. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. People are sorted into categories there.”

“The club treated me worse because I have a Polish passport. From day one, those people had no respect for me.”

In the interview, Jastrzembski recalled an incident in which he was putting up scaffolding at the stadium in Selfoss. He was doing so from a ladder that an Icelandic woman was holding for him.

“Then the boss came and told her to stop helping me because the wind wasn’t that strong, and I’d be fine. The woman left and I fell,” Jastrzembski said, adding that the woman had felt bad about the accident and he’d told her not to worry. The supervisor then began speaking to her in Icelandic and she translated what he said for Jastrzembski. According to the woman, what the Icelandic man said was: “To hell with him. He’s just a Pole. If he dies, there are plenty of Poles who can take his place.”

‘Requested to be released from his contract for personal reasons’

In a Facebook post about Jastrzembski’s departure from the team in July, the team wrote:

“Defender Chris Jastrzembski has played his last game for Selfoss. The player requested to be released from his contract with the club for personal reasons and the club has granted that request. Chris joined the team in the winter and played 13 games this summer and scored one goal. We thank Chris for his time here in Selfoss and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Prior to playing for UMF Selfoss, Jastrzembski played in the Faroe Islands, Germany, and for Poland’s national youth football team.

Fifty-Six Percent of Polish Immigrants Have Experienced Hate Speech

Reykjavik from above

The majority of Polish immigrants in Iceland have experienced hate speech in their time living in the country, Kjarninn reports. This was among the findings of a report shared during a conference held by the City of Reykjavík’s Human Rights and Democracy Office on Friday.

Topics addressed at the conference included how best to deal with hate speech, how to ensure that immigrants are included in Icelandic society, and how to support multiculturalism in Iceland.

Poles comprise the largest group of immigrants living in Iceland. According to Statistics Iceland, 20,520 Polish people were living in Iceland as of the beginning of 2021, accounting for 35.9% of all immigrants in the country.

See Also: Calls on Authorities to Tackle Hate Speech

Eyrún Eyþórsdóttir, doctor of anthropology and assistant professor in police science, was among the speakers at Friday’s conference. She explained that not much data has yet been gathered on hate crimes in Iceland, but in the course of her research, she has conducted interviews with victims as well as an extensive survey amongst Polish immigrants in Iceland last year.

Almost 1,000 Polish immigrants responded to Eyrún’s online survey. Roughly 2% had experienced physical violence as a result of their origins, while 56% of respondents had experienced hate speech. A large proportion of those who had experienced hate speech had done so on multiple occasions.

See Also: Prejudice Just Below the Surface in Iceland, Says Prime Minister

Eyrún said that freedom of speech was often cited as a justification for hate speech. She also noted that destruction of property was common and that perpetrators often knew their victims, and were connected via shared neighbourhoods or workplaces.

María Rún Bjarnadóttir, Director Internet Safety at National Commissioner of Police, shared data that indicated that Iceland lags behind neighbouring Nordic countries in this area. To wit, people in Iceland have experienced more hateful remarks, harassment, and/or threats than in people in Norway in the past twelve months. People in Iceland have also had more difficulty responding to hate speech and have done much less to respond to hateful comments or harassment online.

Four young women aged 16 – 19 who go by Antirasistarnir, The Antiracists, and hold a forum for people of color on Instagram also spoke at Friday’s conference. Anna Sonde, Kristín Reynisdóttir, Valgerður Kehinde Reynisdóttir, and Johanna Haile recently received an entrepreneurial award for their efforts to educate people about racism and discrimination in Iceland. Along with describing the experiences of people of colour growing up in Iceland and the lack of diversity education in the country, the women highlighted the importance of acknowledging that racism is a problem in the first place. Solutions must be found not only for existing problems, said the Antiracists, but also methods of preventing these problems in the first place.

Iceland to Open Embassy in Warsaw This Autumn

An Icelandic embassy to Poland will be opened in the country’s capital Warsaw this autumn, Iceland’s Foreign Minister announced at a cabinet meeting last week. The embassy will also be responsible for servicing Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus. Polish nationals account for around 40% of all immigrants living in Iceland.

“Political, economic, and cultural relations between Iceland and Poland have increased significantly in recent years,” a government notice on the new embassy reads. “An ever-increasing number of Icelanders trace their origins to Poland. The countries’ interests converge on important issues, such as security and defence. Increased communication between the two countries, not least due to the large number of Poles living in Iceland, has strengthened trade and cultural ties.”

The Polish government has operated a consulate in Iceland since 2008, which became a full-fledged embassy in 2013. “With the opening of the Icelandic Embassy in Warsaw, the necessary reciprocity in the political union of the states will finally be achieved, and it is gratifying to be able to take that step and emphasise how valuable the nations’ friendship is to us Icelanders,” Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir stated. “The Polish Embassy in Reykjavík has provided important services to the large group of Poles living in Iceland. In the same way, the Icelandic Embassy in Warsaw can provide services to Icelandic citizens and Poles with close ties to Iceland, and at the same time pave the way for Icelandic companies in these regions and safeguard Icelandic interests, for example in the EEA Development Fund.”

Read more about Iceland’s Polish community here.

Reykjavík Crowd Protests Poland’s Tightened Abortion Laws

Poland protest abortion law

A well-attended protest was held last night outside the Polish Embassy in Reykjavík. It was the second protest within a week organised by activist group Dziewuchy ISLANDIA in opposition to Poland’s recent tightening of abortion law, after a court ruling banned almost all terminations of pregnancy in the country. Thousands have protested the change across Poland, which already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

“By organising solidarity actions in Reykjavík we want to show our support to women and allies fighting for their lives and health in Poland, saying loudly ‘Nigdy nie będziesz szła sama’ (You will never walk alone, sister),” protest organisers Adrianna Stanczak, Sajja Justyna Grosel, and Anna Marjankowska told Iceland Review. “As Polish women able to move, work, and live in Iceland, we see our privilege of living in a country that provides basic health services, that lets us have gynaecological examinations without fear of being humiliated, lets us decide on our bodies and our futures, and lets us get help and medical treatment when we need it.”

Polish nationals are the largest immigrant group in Iceland, numbering over 20,000 and accounting for nearly half of all foreign nationals living in the country. Ewa Marcinek, who moved to Iceland in 2013, echoed the protest organisers’ sentiments. “I feel so lucky to live in Iceland, where medical care is granted to me without any religious or political limits. In Poland, a country with a strong Catholic tradition, abortion law is already strict, causing thousands of women every year to look for help abroad or to risk going through illegal procedures. Personally, I find no words to describe my sadness that the health and well-being of women living in Poland has been questioned in such a radical way.”

Read More: Most Poles in Iceland Did Not Vote for Duda

Michał Drewienkowski moved to Iceland two and a half years ago. He says he attended the protest to support his fiancée and other women. “It’s important to me to speak out because as a man I do not identify with the ideologies of the men governing Poland. I have a fiancée and I wanted her and all women in Poland to know that I support them. I’m standing with them. I will fight with them for gender equality, for basic health care, for their rights to self-determination, that women can and will make their own choices and they are not incubators.”

Fewer than 2,000 legal terminations are carried out in Poland each year, though women’s groups estimate that up to 200,000 abortions are either performed illegally or abroad. Abortions carried out when the foetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations last year, have been outlawed in Poland by the court ruling made last Thursday.

Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir Tweeted yesterday that she was “deeply concerned” about the developments in Poland.

Most Poles in Iceland Did Not Vote for Duda

Andrzej Duda President of Poland

Voting results among Polish nationals in Iceland differed starkly from those in Poland in the country’s recent presidential election. While populist incumbent Andrzej Duda was re-elected with 51.14% of the vote in Poland, he received only 20.2% of votes submitted through the Polish embassy in Iceland. RÚV reported first.

A total of 3,174 votes were submitted through the Polish embassy in Iceland in the second round of voting. Of those votes, 2,533 (79.8%) were for Rafal Trzaskowski, Duda’s liberal opponent. Voter participation was slightly higher in Iceland than Poland, with 71% of eligible voters in Iceland submitting a ballot (the figure was 68% in Poland).

Read More: Poles Apart

Around 20,000 Polish people live in Iceland. They are the largest immigrant group of any nationality in the country, making up nearly half of all immigrants. Human rights groups and critics have expressed fears that Duda’s victory will boost illiberal tendencies in Poland and within the EU.

Immigrants Over 14% of Population

Polish Mini Market Breiðholt

Immigrants in Iceland numbered 50,727 as of January 1, 2019, or 14.1% of the population. This represents a significant increase from the previous year’s figure of 12.6%. The number of second-generation immigrants also rose from 4,861 in 2018 to 5,263 in 2019. The data comes from Statistics Iceland.

People born in Poland were the largest group of immigrants in 2019, as in previous years, numbering 19,172 as of January 1 of this year, or 38.1% of the total immigrant population. The second largest group were immigrants born in Lithuania (2,884), followed by those born in the Philippines (1,968).

As of January 1, 2019, 63.6% of first- and second-generation immigrants were living in the Reykjavík capital region. The region with the highest proportion of immigrants was, however, the Southwest, with 26.6% of its residents being first- or second-generation immigrants. The Westfjords came second, with just under 20% of residents falling into these categories.

Statistics Iceland defines an immigrant as an individual born abroad with both parents and all grandparents also foreign born. A second-generation immigrant is born in Iceland to immigrant parents. A person with foreign background has one parent of foreign origin.

The full report is available in English on Statistics Iceland’s website.