Reykjavík will receive 1500 refugees next year
Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, thinks that more local authorities will participate in similar projects. "We expect the number to increase in the coming weeks, and we are discussing the issue with quite a few municipalities, just as we have been discussing it with the authorities in Reykjavík. The capital is the first, but hopefully, many will follow its sample."
He says these arrangements provide a better framework for receiving refugees in Iceland. The agreements should therefore ensure that everyone who has been granted international protection gets the same service regardless of where they come from or in which municipality they live.
So far this year, 2857 people have been granted international protection. The vast majority, 1875, have come from Ukraine. Seven hundred twenty-eight applications for refugee status have still not been processed.
About 4500 refugees are expected to come to Iceland next year, and the government will allocate around 700 million ISK to operate future reception agreements.
"The funding is based on certain prerequisites, which include the number of people that will be received and that will utilise the reception programmes. It is up to the communes whether they'd like to participate in those or not," says the minister.
Housing remains the most significant challenge
Reykjavík’s agreement means the tripling of the number of refugees the City had previously undertaken to accept. Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson says this is undoubtedly a giant leap from the previous agreement, which has foreseen receiving 500 refugees annually.
"We are now looking at predictions of 4500 refugees across the country in total, so in Reykjavík, we would receive about a third of them. We have been doing our fair share so far. But of course, we hope the state will also succeed in negotiating with other municipalities."
He says that more significant numbers of refugees lead to bigger challenges. "The complicated thing is [to provide] housing. We will work with the government on that and do our best. We still have discussions about what is best and what is enough support for refugee children inside the school system, for example. We haven't quite got it sorted yet."
The Multicultural Centre’s projects are increasing
The Directorate of Labour (Vinnumálastofnun) provides services to local authorities with the Multicultural Information Centre (Fjölmenningarsetur), which, among other things, finds placement for the refugees who arrive in the country.
Nichole Leigh Mosty, the Centre’s director, says, "We match a person with a municipality best suited to welcome them and promote mutual integration into society. We work in a purposeful way to implement the new refugee reception agreements."
For that reason, Nichole believes it is very likely that full-time positions will need to be created to manage the increased amount of projects. "The local authorities can count on our help. We are those experts that the new reception centres all over the country will need, that have never before received refugees. The Multicultural Centre is and will continue to support the local authorities all over the country in providing the best service to refugees."