Ten thousand Icelanders have offered to welcome Syrian refugees into their homes. After the Icelandic government announced last month that it would only accept 50 humanitarian refugees from Syria, Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir encouraged fellow citizens to speak out in favour of those in need of asylum. In the space of 24 hours, well over 10,000 Icelanders – the country’s population is 300,000 – took to Facebook to offer up their homes and urge their government to do more.
“I think people have had enough of seeing news stories from the Mediterranean and refugee camps of dying people and they want something done now", Bjorgvinsdottir told Icelandic public television RUV.
More than 12,000 people have responded to her Facebook group “Syria is calling” to sign an open letter to their welfare minister, Eygló Harðar. “Refugees are human resources, they have experience and skills,” the Icelandic letter reads. “Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, or soulmates, the drummer for the band of our children, our next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finished the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, the fireman, the computer genius, or the television host.”
The open letter and offers of assistance from ordinary citizens reflects a shifting attitude towards refugees in some parts of Europe as this blog earlier reported.
Over the weekend, German football fans held up signs at matches welcoming those fleeing persecution, and the German tabloid Bild, not renowned for its liberal attitudes towards immigration, has taken up the cause.
“We’ve had enough – enough of the deaths, the suffering and the persecution,” the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, said.