PM Jakobsdóttir Receives 2,000 Signatures on Israeli Actions

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir received 2,000 signatures urging Icelandic authorities to condemn Israeli military actions in Palestine, RÚV reports. While she emphasised the importance of humanitarian laws and humanitarian aid for Palestine, she did not directly commit to the protesters’ demands.

2,000 signatures handed over

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir received approximately 2,000 signatures demanding that Icelandic authorities condemn the actions of the Israeli military in Palestine, RÚV reports. Around 100 people gathered this morning outside the Prime Minister’s residence on Tjarnargata to protest the conflict in Palestine. The government held a meeting there this morning.

Katrín stepped out of the meeting to speak with the protesters, where Sema Erla Serdar, an activist and Chair of the Solaris association, presented her with the signatures collected over two days. Katrín then returned to the meeting, which concluded shortly before 10 AM.

“Not enough has been done”

“It has not been enough; Icelandic authorities have not condemned the war crimes and mass murders by Israeli officials, and we demand that they do. And we will continue to show up here if necessary,” Sema Erla told RÚV after Katrín had returned inside the residence.

When asked whether the PM had made any promises, Sema responded thusly: “She promised to address the issue in the meeting and to continue advocating on this matter. We will see what that means.”

As noted by RÚV, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir did not directly answer whether Icelandic authorities would yield to the demands of the protesters when approached by the media after the meeting. Instead, she emphasised the importance of respecting humanitarian laws.

“We have, of course, recognized Palestine as an independent state,” Katrín remarked. “We have always advocated for a two-state solution. We have supported the recent demand for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the region and have allocated additional funds for humanitarian assistance in Gaza. We always emphasise the importance of international laws being respected – including humanitarian laws.”

Zelenskyy to Meet with Nordic Leaders in Helsinki

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy will be present at a one-day Nordic Summit in Helsinki today. During the summit, Zelenskyy will also attend bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of the four guest countries, including Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Discussing Russia’s “war of aggression in Ukraine”

Earlier this morning, the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland announced that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy would attend a one-day Nordic-Ukrainian summit, as hosted by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the president’s residence.

As noted by Mbl.is, Selenskyy’s arrival in Finland has been shrouded in secrecy, which has inspired extensive security measures in Helsinki. The summit will be attended by President Niinistö and President Zelenskyy, as well as Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, and Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

As noted in the press release, the leaders will discuss “Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine, the developments in Ukraine’s relationship with EU and NATO, and Ukraine’s initiative for a just peace. These official discussions will be followed by a joint press conference. The Nordic Prime ministers will also have bilateral meetings with President Zelenskyy.”

Finnish President Niinistö will have his first meeting with Zelensky before noon.

Finland’s first meeting with fellow nations as a NATO member

As noted by RÚV, the summit is noteworthy not only in light of Zelensky’s attendance – but also because Finland is now talking to its fellow nations for the first time as an official NATO member. Finland joined NATO on April 4, and with that the alliance’s border with Russia more than doubled.

Sweden remains the only attendee who remains outside NATO; Sweden applied for membership, alongside Finland, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Two weeks until the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavík

As previously reported, there are less than two weeks until the summit of the Council of Europe will be held in Reykjavík. It remains to be seen whether Zelenskyy will attend.

It’s also been about a month and a half since PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir, alongside Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, attended a meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. At the end of the visit, Katrín stated, among other things, that she had discussed what could be achieved with the summit in Reykjavík.

One Year On: 800 Ukrainians Granted Work Permits in Iceland

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Over 800 Ukrainian refugees have received work permits in Iceland since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last year, an article on the government’s website notes. Today marks one year since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainians entered the labour market successfully

The Icelandic government has successfully helped Ukrainian refugees integrate into the labour market, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Over the past year, nearly 2,600 Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed to Iceland, with around 1,900 between the ages of 18 and 67, as reported on the government’s website.

“Based on the number of work permits issued, it can be assumed that more than 42% of refugees have already secured employment. However, it is important to note that some have only recently arrived and require time to settle before finding work,” the press release reads.

The first refugees arrived in Iceland from Ukraine in February of last year, with over 500 people fleeing the country in the following month. Since then, approximately 200 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Iceland each month, with residency permits granted on humanitarian grounds.

“Hard workers” who’ve been well received

The majority of work permits issued for Ukrainian refugees in Iceland are for jobs in cleaning and laundry, as well as various service roles in homes and restaurants. Some have also secured employment in the construction and fishing industries.

“We see that most people from Ukraine who come to us want to enter the labour market as soon as possible and that they put a lot of effort into finding a job. Many of them are willing to accept whatever’s available, despite their high level of education and work experience. They report feeling welcomed, safe, and positively received in Iceland,” Guðlaug Hrönn Pétursdóttir, head of the refugee department at the Directorate of Labour, which provides special services (including Icelandic lessons) to refugees who are looking for employment.

Employers in Iceland have expressed satisfaction with Ukrainian workers, who are known to work hard. In 2022, the Directorate of Labour provided community education to 395 Ukrainians and Icelandic lessons to 419 refugees.

Ukraine War: Humanitarian Aid to Be Increased Next Year, PM Says

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has told RÚV that the government will increase its expenditure on humanitarian aid next year as a result of the war in Ukraine. Katrín has condemned Russia’s invasion and recent missile strikes on Ukrainian cities.

Nuclear threats “entirely unacceptable”

After Russian President Vladimir Putin launched missile strikes on several Ukrainian cities on Monday – in response to Saturday’s attack on a bridge linking Russia with occupied Crimea – political leaders in the west have expressed their condemnation. At least 11 people have reportedly been killed and scores more have been injured, the Guardian reports.

Following news of this attack, Ukrainians in Iceland congregated in front of the Russian embassy in Reykjavík to protest. The protest’s organiser stated that “it was like the war was beginning again.”

Speaking to RÚV this afternoon, PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir observed that the war in Ukraine was obviously escalating. “We’re seeing threats of nuclear attacks, which is, of course, entirely unacceptable; we’re seeing attacks on civilians, which is, of course, also completely unacceptable. The war is intensifying.”

When asked how the government would respond to this escalation, Katrín began by saying that her cabinet had always been vocal in its condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion on the global political stage.

“We’ve also contributed through humanitarian aid – and will continue to do so. We’re drafting plans for next year, as we don’t foresee the conflict coming to an end,” Katrín remarked. It is unclear at this time how much the government will earmark for humanitarian aid next year; according to the government’s website, Iceland has thus far contributed ISK 1 billion of humanitarian aid to the war in Ukraine.

In addition to humanitarian aid, Katrín added that Iceland has offered assistance in the form of training, with regard to the location and disposal of explosive devices, in addition to participating in other comparable projects directly related to the conflict. Katrín also mentioned Iceland’s reception of Ukrainian refugees.

Iceland Donates ISK 130 Million in Emergency Aid to Ukraine

Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir

The Icelandic government has decided to send ISK 130 million [just over $1 million; €929,000] in emergency financial assistance to Ukraine via the World Bank. RÚV reports that Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir announced the additional funding after attending a meeting last week in Washington, D.C. wherein international leaders met to attend the World Bank’s roundtable on Ukraine. The meeting was scheduled to coincide with the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

This is Iceland’s second major emergency aid donation to Ukraine. In February, Iceland committed €1 million to humanitarian support in Ukraine, and also made a €200,000 contribution to NATO’s Trust Fund for the Ukraine Professional Development Programme.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Smyhal and Minister of Finance Sergei Marchenko were both present at the meeting and emphasized Ukraine’s urgent need for financial assistance, both in order to maintain basic services and also for reconstruction efforts. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered an address remotely.

In her own address, Þórdís Kolbrún expressed Iceland’s desire to contribute as much as possible to support Ukraine in its efforts to repel Russia’s invasion of their country. “The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and freedom,” she said, reemphasizing that Iceland continues to stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

Nearly All Icelanders Believe War Crimes Have Been Committed in Ukraine

Protests in Reykjavík

A new survey shows that support for Ukraine in Iceland is almost universal and Icelanders have shown this support in a variety of ways, RÚV reports.

According to a recent Gallup poll, almost all Icelanders believe that Russians have committed war crimes in Ukraine and should be prosecuted in international courts.

See Also: Vesturbær Residents Come to Aid of New Ukrainian Neighbours

Nearly a third of Icelanders have made direct monetary donations to Ukraine and over a quarter of the country has purchased goods or services, the proceeds of which will be used support Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself and support its people during Russia’s invasion of the country. A fifth of the nation has donated clothing or other items to be donated to Ukrainians.

See Also: Ukrainian Refugees Welcomed to Bifröst University

Almost 84% of Icelanders believe that the country is doing a good job of its reception Ukrainian refugees, while 4% think that the reception efforts have not been handled well.

Special Article Triggered to Assist Ukrainian Refugees

Jón Gunnarsson Minister of Justice

The Minister of Justice has decided to trigger article 44 of the Foreign Nationals Act in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, RÚV reports. The article, activated for the first time in history, concerns the collective protection of foreign nationals in the event of mass exodus.

Solidarity among European ministers

Yesterday, the national ministers of EU member states agreed to provide special protection for Ukrainians in mass flight following the Russian invasion. Icelandic Minister of the Interior Jón Gunnarsson attended the meeting in Brussels and subsequently spoke to a reporter from RÚV.

“EU member states decided to trigger the (temporary protection directive), involving the collective protection of individuals that are party to a mass exodus. There was great solidarity among the European ministers,” Jón Gunnarsson stated.

“I have, therefore, decided to trigger article 44 of the Foreign Nationals Act, which concerns collective protection in a mass flight situation. This will expedite our reception of refugees.”

Circumventing the overburdened asylum system

Although Ukraine is not part of the passport-free Schengen Area, Ukrainian nationals are “entitled to visa-free travel for up to 90 days.” The triggering of the directive aims to offer a long-term solution in the event that the 90-day limit is exhausted.

As noted on the website of the European Commission, temporary protection is an “exceptional measure to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from non-EU countries and those unable to return to their country of origin.” The measure applies when the standard asylum system is at risk of not being able to cope with the demand stemming from a mass exodus.

An “historic moment”

When asked if this meant that this would remove all uncertainty for Ukrainians fleeing the invasion – as they would receive immediate protection without the delays that often accompany the standard processing of applications – minister Jón Gunnarsson replied in the affirmative:

“Yes, on the basis of this legislation, they’ll receive protection without going through the system. This is the first time that this article is triggered in Iceland. It’s a kind of historic moment. We have opened our borders to these people, and there are a few who have already arrived. This will simplify our work and make the process more efficient.”

The minister’s decision will be introduced before Parliament today.

 

(The first two paragraphs of article 44 on the Foreign Nationals Act:

“In a case of mass flight the Minister may decide to apply the provisions of this article. The Minister also decides when authorisation to provide collective protection under paras. 2 and 3 shall cease.

A foreign national who is a member of a group which flees a specified region and arrives in Iceland, or is in Iceland when the provisions of the article are applied, may upon application for international protection be granted protection on the basis of a group assessment (collective protection). This entails that the foreign national will be granted a residence permit under art. 74. The permit cannot serve as basis for the issue of a
permanent residence permit.”)