Palestinian Refugees Arrive with Volunteer Help

Keflavík Airport

Eleven Palestinians arrived to Iceland yesterday, all of whom already had Icelandic visas on the basis of family reunification. They were assisted in crossing the border into Egypt by Icelandic volunteers in the area, Vísir reports.

More to be assisted

Among those who arrived is a father with three children, one of whom is a boy injured during the Gaza conflict. Three mothers with a child each are also in the group. One of the children is a chronically ill girl. “She’s been without medicine for a long time,” said Gunnhildur Sveinsdóttir, one of the volunteers arriving back from Cairo.

Gunnhildur said that the group of volunteers has been in touch with the Ministry of Social Affairs and that the International Organization for Migration had escorted the refugees after they crossed the border into Egypt. The volunteers in Cairo are still looking to help 17 more people cross the border and are hoping that this will come to pass in the next few days.

Hard, exhausting work

Gunnhildur added that the volunteers pay for their own expenses while on the mission. They have helped the refugees get accommodation and necessities when in Egypt, while supplying the local authorities with information about Icelandic visa holders. “It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “You arrive back pretty exhausted, but it’s absolutely worth it. The stay in Cairo was good and we were well received.”

Volunteers Help 12 More Palestinians Escape Gaza

Protestors outside US Embassy in Reykjavík

Twelve more Palestinians, comprised mostly of children, have been assisted by Icelandic volunteers in fleeing Gaza. All of them are Icelandic residence permit holders.

Part of a continuing effort

As reported, Icelandic civilian volunteers have been traveling to and from Egypt since early February, traveling to the Egyptian border with Gaza near the town of Rafah in an effort to help the over 100 Icelandic residence permit holders there get out of Gaza and come to Iceland. The matter is especially urgent as Israeli forces have been actively bombarding the town.

One family arrived last week, about a week after another Palestinian family reunited here, and there has been an ongoing fundraiser to help assist with extraneous expenses in their travel and arrival.

Mostly children, sick and injured

Sema Erla Serdaroglu, the founder and president of the refugee and asylum seeker rights group Solaris, announced on Facebook that another group of Palestinians, twelve in all, had been assisted by Icelandic volunteers in getting out of Gaza.

As with previous Palestinians assisted by Icelandic volunteers, all of them have residence permits in Iceland, but in this case most of them are reportedly sick and injured children and their family members. In addition, another 17 Icelandic residence permit holders in Gaza are reportedly next in line to leave Gaza–of them, 14 are children.

“History will judge you”

Sema concluded her post by praising the efforts of all volunteers involved, and the Icelandic public who have been supporting their efforts, while criticising the Icelandic government for “standing by”, adding, “We will never forget. We will not forgive. History will judge you!”

Three representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Iceland went to Cairo earlier this month, ostensibly to meet with Egyptian officials about retrieving the remaining Icelandic residence permit holders from Gaza–following an example already set by other Nordic countries–but as yet there have been no major developments on that front.

Palestinian Family Arrives in Iceland

Palestine protest February 5 2024

A mother and three daughters from Gaza have at last landed in Iceland, Vísir reports, having arrived last Friday. They were soon after reunited with the husband and father of this family, who has lived in Iceland for two years now.

The mother and her children are amongst the Palestinians that Icelandic volunteers currently in Egypt are trying to get out of Gaza via the Palestinian border town of Rafah. All four of them already had Icelandic residence permits.

As has been reported, there are just over 100 Palestinians in Gaza who have Icelandic residence permits and have been trying to get out of the region. While government officials either said they had no obligation to help them, or called the process “complicated”, some Icelandic civilians have taken matters into their own hands and opted to travel to Egypt themselves to help these families cross the border into Egypt.

Shortly thereafter, official from Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs traveled to Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials on how to rescue the remaining Icelandic residence permit holders in Gaza.

This marks the second family rescued by volunteers who have arrived in Iceland so far. Earlier this month, a mother and her three sons were assisted in getting out of Gaza and arrived in Iceland shortly thereafter.

What progress Icelandic government officials are making in Egypt still remains to be seen, but in the meantime, volunteer efforts will likely continue.