Thousands of Icelanders are calling on their government to increase the country’s intake of Syrian asylum seekers in the wake of the worsening refugee crisis.
A Facebook group, set up by author author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, now has more than 15,000 members, many of whom have pledged to open their homes to refugees fleeing civil war in Syria.
It follows the Icelandic government’s decision to cap the country’s humanitarian intake at 50.
“I hereby request a residence and work permit, along with an identification number and basic human rights, for five Syrians. I know a man who can accommodate them and give them food, but I’ll pay for their flight tickets and present them to the country and its people. I read in the news that Icelanders can accept 50 Syrians, but this would make them 55,” Bjorgvinsdottir wrote in an open letter to the country’s Minister for Welfare Eygló Harðar.
Bjorgvinsdottir describes the group, Syria is Calling, as a platform for people to pen their own letters to the government and show their leaders that they are willing to open their homes to refugees.
She says that she will collate the letters and send them on to the minister.
“Refugees are human resources, experience and skills. Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, our next soul mate, the drummer in our children’s band, our next colleague, Miss Iceland 2022, the carpenter who finally fixes our bathroom, the chef in the cafeteria, the fireman, the hacker and the television host,” she writes.
“People who we’ll never be able to say to: ‘Your life is worth less than mine.'”
This week, a devastating image of drowned three-year-old Aylan Kurd, whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach, circulated on social media.
Referencing the thousands of migrants who have drowned in their desperation to cross the Mediterranean, Bjorgvinsdottir urged her leaders to “open the gates”.
Thanks to the outpourings of support being generated by the Facebook group, Iceland’s Red Cross say they have received record numbers of volunteers in the past 48 hours.
Many refugees have also expressed their gratitude within the forum, including 23-year-old Bisha Krouma, who thanked the people of Iceland and said they had “restored his faith in humanity.”
“I assure you Syrians have great abilities when put in the right circumstances and environments, just similar to those you are living in,” he wrote.
If you want to do more, you can consider donating to….
Save the Children: distributing essential items to asylum seeker families.
Red Cross Europe: Giving emergency health care at train stations.
Migrant Offshore Aid Station: Preventing migrant deaths at sea