BY: ZOE MELNYK
While nations around the world are struggling to create a reasonable solution to the recent refugee crisis, Iceland’s citizens are embracing an “open door” policy – welcoming in thousands of immigrants searching for a brighter future.
Although immigration is nothing new, the number of people evacuating their homes and flooding the borders of developed nations has increased overwhelmingly in the past five years.
This is largely due to the increase in violence in Middle Eastern countries, Syria in particular. According to Mercy Corps, the number of Syrian refugees has leaped from 100,000 in 2012 to 3.8 million in 2015 due to violence and religious domination.
While most refugees can only escape to neighbouring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon, where circumstances are still insufficient for accommodating such a large influx of people, there are the fortunate few that are able to reach developed nations in Western Europe.
As exciting as it may be for these refugees to reach such a promising land, certain nations in the European Union are less than thrilled about accepting such a large portion of foreigners and have even declared the current state of affairs a refugee crisis.
While Germany took 73,000 immigrants at the beginning of 2015 alone, other countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland are working to keep their gates closed. Some nations are even considering only accepting Christians, limiting thousands of refugees to migrate legally.
The concerns from these nations stem from the belief that immigrants will take advantage of welfare systems, take away potential jobs from locals, and change the overall culture of the nation.
This is not just an issue in Europe either. What everyone around the world seems to be forgetting is that although these immigrants come from all different walks of life, may look different and even speak different languages, at the end of the day they are people and they need help.
The citizens of Iceland seem to recognize the desperate need to assist these refugees who are simply searching for safety. They’re in the process of developing a sort of “open door” policy and are working with the government to increase the number of immigrants they can accept into their nation.
The idea began when Icelander Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir created a Facebook group addressing Iceland’s Welfare Minister and demanded a change in their current agreement to only accept a minimum of 50 refugees.
In her letter she addresses that these lives are no different from our own and deserve the same respect. “They are our future spouses, best friends, the next soul mate, a drummer for our children’s band, the next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finishes the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, a fireman and television host,” she wrote.
The group now has over 11,000 homes willing to accept refugees, offering to pay for their flights and introduce them into society in exchange for working permits and residence papers.
With the overwhelming support system forming in Iceland, the nation’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson announced a new committee that is focused on creating a new immigration policy.
Since the rest of the world seems to be boarding up their walls out of the fear that they may need to accept new cultures and offer resources to those in need, it’s refreshing to see others acknowledging the importance of human life. Although we are divided into separate nations, we are really all on this planet together.