50 refugees to northwest Iceland
The Ministry of Social Affairs approached Blönduósbær and Húnaþing vestra (the municipality containing Hvammstangi town) last year to see whether they would be interested in welcoming Syrian refugees who have been living in camps in Lebanon. The council in Húnaþing vestra responded positively just before Christmas and over a hundred people attended a community meeting on the issue last week. Their neighbours in Blönduós have now also decided to take part and the plan is for each community to welcome 25 refugees at the end of April/start of May.
Valdimar O. Hermannsson, mayor of Blönduósbær, says most of the people set to move to the northwest Iceland communities are families—mostly parents with one-to-three children. The next step is to organise their reception, arrange support families to help them, make arrangements at local schools and social services and find them housing.
The number of people living in Blönduós has increased quickly and there are not many empty homes in town, although there are quite a few under construction. But the town has asked for assistance from Skagaströnd: “There could be housing there and we already work together as sister communities on school and social services matters. The biggest obstacle is finding housing for the short and long term,” Valdimar says. Blönduós and Skagaströnd are about a 20-minute drive away from one another.
Blönduós will hold its own community meeting on the matter next week. “There is clearly a big community here of foreigners, including Polish people and more, who have lived here for varying lengths of time. This is just a project to get on with and we foresee nothing other than that the locals will support it wholeheartedly,” Valdimar says.