76 Ukrainians Have Applied For Asylum in Iceland

Protest

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 76 Ukrainians have applied for asylum in Iceland, Border Division Police Chief Jón Pétur Jónsson told MBL.is.

However, an even higher number of Ukrainian nationals arriving in Iceland recently could indicate that many are exercising their right to reside in the country for up to three months before officially applying for protection. Jón Pétur said border police could not rule out that scenario.

He said authorities are considering increasing the preparedness level at the border to better handle the stress of arrivals from Ukraine on the immigration system. Iceland’s Social Affairs Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson will appoint a special response team to coordinate the reception of refugees from Ukraine.

“We are looking holistically at the reception system, from the time an individual arrives in the country until they receive services,” Jón Pétur said. “The reception system is resetting itself now that Article 44 of the Foreign Nationals Act is active.”

Article 44 of the Foreign Nationals Act provides for the collective protection of foreign nationals in the event of mass exodus. Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson triggered the article on March 3.

Including the recent applicants from Ukraine, 320 individuals have applied for asylum in Iceland so far this year — a seven-year high.

 

Iceland Appoints Response Team to Assist Ukrainian Refugees

Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources

Up to 2,000 Ukrainian refugees might come to Iceland to apply for international protection, according to estimates from the country’s Refugee Committee. Iceland’s Social Affairs Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson will appoint a special response team to coordinate the reception of refugees from Ukraine. Iceland’s Minister of Justice triggered Article 44 of the Foreign Nationals Act last week to provide immediate, though temporary, protection for Ukrainians fleeing as a result of the Russian invasion.

One of the biggest challenges will be finding housing for the refugees, according to the chairman of Alþingi’s Refugee Committee, Stefán Vagn Stefánsson. “That’s one of the big projects, to find housing for the people, and the problem is that we don’t know how much will be needed. Finding housing has gone better than we assumed it would. Private parties have contacted us and offered housing. That’s incredibly important and helps a lot. It’s also a cause for celebration that the Icelandic Confederation of Labour’s central committee encouraged labour unions to join the effort last week.”

Stefán also expressed his hope that municipal authorities would help in finding housing. While there are currently three municipalities in the country with active government contracts for the reception and resettlement of refugees, he says more will have to be added in order for the project to be successful.

A notice from the Icelandic government stated that an electronic portal would be set up as early as today where institutions and others could offer housing for refugees, both shorter and longer term.

Iceland Prepares to Receive Refugees from Ukraine

Iceland will receive refugees from Ukraine, as other European countries are doing, stated the chairman of the Icelandic Parliament’s Refugee Committee. The Directorate of Immigration has removed Ukraine from its list of safe countries, making it possible for Ukrainians to apply for international protection in Iceland, and several dozens have already done so. Authorities have yet to determine how many refugees from the country will be accepted, but preparations to receive them are already underway.

Municipalities want to take part

“We have begun the preparations for the project but strongly emphasise monitoring and observing how European countries will assist the tremendous number of people that are now seeking refuge,” Stefán Vagn Stefánsson, chairman of the Refugee Committee, told Vísir. “We will try to the best of our ability to be in step with what other European nations are doing. We have initiated dialogue with municipalities to try to find out how much housing is available in the country.”

Stefán stated that a number of municipalities in Iceland had already declared that they would like to participate in the resettlement of refugees. He expects more municipalities to do so. “It’s very gratifying to see the solidarity and the willingness from municipalities to take part in the project.”

Number of refugees to be determined

The committee has not yet determined how many refugees will be taken in from Ukraine. “I won’t give you a number because it doesn’t exist. We don’t have one yet. It’s very bad to give a number then not be able to honour it. The situation is such that this is very unlike the projects we have had so far,” Stefán stated.

“This is a European country and residents of Ukraine are free to come here and be here for 90 days. Ukraine has been taken off the Directorate of Immigration’s list of safe countries, so people can apply for international protection. That has already begun, some dozens have applied for it, so the project has begun in some respect.”

The Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Friday.

Record Number of Refugees to Be Received in 2020

Refugees protest in Reykjavík

According to a statement on the Government Offices’ website, the Icelandic government recently approved a proposal from the Refugee Committee to receive 85 refugees, in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency, in 2020 – a record number.

The proposed acceptance is in line with the government’s agreement, which provides for the increased reception of refugees:

“Never before have there been more refugees in the world due to armed conflict, persecution and environmental catastrophes. Iceland will make its contribution to solve [sici] the refugee crisis and will accept more refugees.”

Three Different Regions

The government plans on accepting refugees from three different regions: Lebanon, Kenya, and Iran.

Syrian nationals account for the greatest portion of international refugees. Conditions for Syrian refugees in Lebanon continue to worsen. Of the approximately 55% of Syrian children who are without access to formal education, 40% have no access to education of any kind. Less than 5% of Syrian children between the ages of 15 and 18 have access to education, the statement reads.

Refugees from Kenya will also be accepted. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that approximately 45,000 individuals are currently in dire need of being extricated from Kenya as quota refugees. The agency has designated four groups, in particular, that are at risk: queer refugees; refugees from South Sudan; refugees involved in politics, human rights activism, or journalism; and special-needs refugees from Somalia.

Finally, Afghani refugees from Iran will also be received. There are an estimated 2.6 million Afghani refugees, many of whom have spent considerable time in refugee camps. Afghani women and girls are especially vulnerable, owing to sex-related violence, forced marriage, and other traditions related to heritage, sex, and class.

247 Refugees Resettled

Since 2015, a total of 247 refugees have been accepted into Icelandic society by 15 municipalities. The majority of these refugees are Syrian but they have also come from Iraq, Uganda, the Republic of the Congo (Congo), Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Sudan, and Cameroon. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that there is a total of 19.9 million refugees in the world today – ca. 1.5 million of whom are in dire need of being accepted as quota refugees (only 4% of which were delivered to safety last year).

According to an article on the World Economic Forum this June, Canada resettled more refugees than any other country last year, or approximately 28,000. This number accounts for approximately 0.00074% of Canada’s population (ca. 37.5 million). The total number of refugees that Iceland hopes to resettle in 2020 will account for approximately 0.00024% of Iceland’s population (ca. 360,000).