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Iceland Mag

Politics

President of Iceland welcomes Syrian refugees at a reception at presidential residence

By Staff

  • Welcoming a new Icelander Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland welcomes a young refugee fleeing war torn Syria with his family. 22 Syrian refugees were welcomed to Iceland by the President yesterday. Photo/Eyþór

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland held a reception at his official residence to welcome a group of Syrian refugees to Iceland. The refugees, five families, 9 adults and 13 children, arrived yesterday afternoon. They will be settled in Reykjavík and Akureyri. The group was greeted by the Mayor of Reykjavík, Dagur B. Eggertsson, the Minister of Welfare, Þorsteinn Víglundsson, and the President and first lady, Eliza Reed, at Bessastaðir, the official residence of the President. 

Showing in action the core values of Icelandic society

refugees, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Welcome party to Iceland One of the five families posing with Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, Photo/Office of the President of Iceland

The local news site Vísir reports that the refugees who arrived came from a refugee camp in Lebanon where they have been for the past three years. One of the five families will be settled in the town Akureyri in North Iceland, while the other four will settle in Reykjavík.

Three of the families which arrived yesterday have relatives in Iceland. Iceland has now accepted 117 Syrian refugees. 

Read more: Iceland will not reconsider decision to accept Syrian refugees following Paris terrorist attacks

In his speech welcoming the group Þorsteinn talked about the importance of Iceland shouldering its responsibility by helping people in desperate need, as well as the importance of demonstrating in action what kind of society Iceland is: "By welcoming these families to Iceland we are not only shouldering our responsibility in the community of nations by helping those in need, we also demonstrating what kind of society Iceland is." 

Fear should not trump freedom

 

refugees, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson Polls show the President enjoys virtually unanimous approval among voters. Photo/Office of the President of Iceland

The President echoed this sentiment, welcoming the refugees to their new home. He admitted that Iceland was a small country and could not "rescue the world, receive all who seek refuge" on its own: Larger, more powerful states "need to secure peace in war-ravaged parts of the world.

This did not change the fact that Iceland could, and should, help: " We can offer a safe haven and improve our society by demonstrating open-mindedness, charity and compassion." 

Read more: Support for Icelandic president continues to rise, just 3.8% view former history professor negatively

Guðni quoted the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights on human dignity and freedom, as well as US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the importance of not allowing fear to trump freedom:

"Here in Iceland we want to defend indisputable human rights: gender equality, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom to travel and not the least the freedom from fear. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” the president of the United States said so memorably in 1933. Again, let me welcome you to Iceland with all of my heart."

An official English translation of Guðni's full address to the refugees can be found here (pdf)

The president's address (in Icelandic and in Arabic translation): 

 refugees, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

Some of the new Icelanders Five families, 13 children and 9 adults were welcomed to Iceland yesterday. Photo/Office of the President of Iceland

 

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