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More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis

Published 01/09/2015

Iceland's government is only obliged to take in 50 asylum seekers a year, according to a humanitarian quota
Iceland's government is only obliged to take in 50 asylum seekers a year, according to a humanitarian quota

More than 11,000 families in Iceland have offered to open their homes to Syrian refugees in a bid to raise the government’s cap of just 50 asylum seekers a year.

They responded to a call by author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, who set up a Facebook group with an open letter to the country’s welfare minister, Eygló Harðardóttir, asking her to allow people to help.

Ms Bjorgvinsdottir said she knew someone who could house five Syrians fleeing the country’s brutal civil war, requesting work permits, residents papers and “basic human rights” in exchange for paying for their flight and helping them integrate into national society.

In the letter, she said she started the group to show the level of public support for welcoming more refugees, who Ms Bjorgvinsdottir called “human resources” with experience and skills that could help all Icelanders.

“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.

“People of whom we'll never be able to say in the future: ‘Your life is worth less than my life.’”

Referring to the thousands of migrants who have drowned in desperate attempts to cross the Mediterranean, Ms Bjorgvinsdottir urged Iceland to “open the gates”.

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A girl cries as hundreds of migrants gather for a registration procedure at the stadium of Kos town, on the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
A girl cries as hundreds of migrants gather for a registration procedure at the stadium of Kos town, on the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
A policeman (2nd-R) pushes a migrant as hundreds wait to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOTS A migrant carries his child on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in an inflatable raft, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOTS Policemen try to disperse hundreds of migrants by spraying them with fire extinguishers during a gathering for a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait to be registered by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Greek police stand guard as hundreds of migrants wait to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A migrant drinks water as he waits with hundreds of others to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A policeman pushes a migrant as hundreds wait to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait to be registered by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait behind a fence outside a stadium in order to be registered by the police on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants gather outside the stadium where they go through a registration procedure by the police on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants arrive on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in an inflatable raft, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants get out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants hug one another after getting out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants get out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants flash the "V for Victory" sign as they arrive in a boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 11, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A migrant holds his child as they arrive on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 11, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wearing life jackets arrive on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 11, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait for a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A migrant child cries (C) during a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Policemen try to disperse hundreds of migrants by spraying them with fire extinguishers during a gathering for a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A policeman confronts a migrant with a truncheon during a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A policeman tries to disperse hundreds of migrants by spraying them with a fire extinguisher, during a registration procedure which was taken place at the stadium of Kos town, on the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. Fights broke out among migrants on the Greek island of Kos Tuesday, where overwhelmed authorities are struggling to contain increasing numbers of people arriving clandestinely on rubber dinghies from the nearby Turkish shore. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Police officers try to make space as migrants queuing for a registration procedure inside a stadium in Kos, on the Greek southeastern island of Kos, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Locked in a sunbaked football stadium without food, drinking water or sanitation, about 1,000 refugees queued for hours Wednesday to register with overwhelmed Greek authorities on the holiday island of Kos, now at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis sweeping the financially broken country. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Syrian migrants and refugees gather at a makeshift migrant detention center at Kos' abandoned football stadium after crossing from Turkey, at the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Locked in an abandoned football stadium without food, drinking water or sanitation, about 1,000 refugees queued for hours Wednesday to register with overwhelmed Greek authorities on the holiday island of Kos, at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis sweeping the financially broken country. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: Migrants climb a wall of the national stadium where a registration exercise for the migrants is taking place on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A Syrian refugee gesticulates as Syrian refugees are pushed by riot police trying to maintain an orderly line during a registration procedure at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A Greek riot police officer stands guard as migrants and refugees wait to be registered at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A Greek riot police officer stands guard as migrants and refugees wait to be registered at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: Migrants climb a wall of the national stadium where a registration exercise for the migrants is taking place on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A father protects his children while migrants and refugees are pushed as riot police try to maintain an orderly line during a registration exercise at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: Greek riot police officers stand guard as migrants and refugees wait to be registered at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

More than 11,000 people have so far joined the group, writing their own proposals in thousands of comments below.

“I'm a single mother with a six-year-old son...we can take a child in need. I'm a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys and everything a child needs,” wrote Hekla Stefansdottir, according to a translation by AFP.

As the outpouring of support continues, the Prime Minister has announced the formation of a committee dedicated to re-assessing the number of asylum seekers Iceland will accept.

The Reykjavik Grapevine reported that in a radio interview on Monday, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson that Iceland must take part in efforts to welcome the influx of migrants reaching Europe, which he called “one of the greatest challenges of modern times”.

Meanwhile, the welfare minister, Ms Harðardóttir, told national broadcaster RUV that authorities were reading the Facebook offers and would consider increasing the number of refugees accepted under a quota.

Iceland, which has a population of little over 330,000, welcomed 1,117 immigrants in 2014, according to government figures.

Germany is currently leading Europe for taking in asylum seekers, receiving more than  73,000 first-time asylum claims in the first three months of this year alone, compared to 7,300 in the UK.

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