Free travel for 65 years
52 Hungarians aged 3-54 arrived in Iceland on 23rd December 1956—the first refugees the country welcomed, shortly after joining the UNHCR.
Guðmundur Jónasson, a coach company owner, contacted the Red Cross and offered to drive the refugees for free.
His daughter Signý remembers those early days. “I think it was never a question to help with this project,” she says. “People were asked for assistance. There was some sort of awakening in society and when my father was asked, he decided not to charge for the driving. Since then, this good cooperation with the Red Cross has held. It has been an enjoyable collaboration.”
Yesterday, it was Signý’s son--Guðmundur’s grandson—behind the wheel when two Syrian families were driven north to Akureyri. Stefán Gunnarsson struck a similar note to his mother: “It has been in the family all these years to offer free transport. We have been working with the Red Cross the whole time and taken part in these projects to take care of driving refugees. I have travelled to over 70 countries in the world and know from personal experience that 99.9 percent of people are good people. These people coming now certainly belong to that group.”
Two families, a total of nine people, set off for Akureyri yesterday lunchtime after finishing their covid quarantine in the capital. The children in the group were excited to start school. Ahmet dreams of becoming a doctor, an IT expert, or a famous footballer. Rimal also wants to be a doctor. Their proud fathers say they want to learn Icelandic and start a new life in the country, for their children.