Iceland Citizens Respond With Open Arms After Government Welcomes Just 50 Syrian Refugees

"I can pay the airfare for one small family."
Migrants seen aboard an Iceland Coast Guard vessel near Sicily, southern Italy, May 6, 2015.
Migrants seen aboard an Iceland Coast Guard vessel near Sicily, southern Italy, May 6, 2015.

Syria is currently the biggest source of refugees in the world. Nearly four million people have been forced to flee from their homes, driven away by the dual threat of war and terrorism.

Many neighboring countries have opened up borders to help feed and house the influx of those in need. Almost two million are currently in Turkey, one million are in Lebanon and nearly 630,000 are in Jordan, with tens of thousands more arriving every month, according to the UN Refugee Agency. They've also made their way to Europe, where the migration wave is taking a toll on regional resources.

Iceland recently announced it has a refugee acceptance cap of just 50 people. In response to this number, a prominent Icelandic author, Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, posted an open letter on Facebook titled "Syria is calling," and encouraged concerned Icelanders to use the page to communicate with welfare minister Eygló Harðar. More than 12,000 have responded so far, with many offering to take in Syrian refugees. 

“I’m happy to look after children, take them to kindergarten, school and wherever they need," one post, translated by the Iceland Review, reads. "I can cook for people and show them friendship and warmth. I can pay the airfare for one small family. I can contribute with my expertise and assist pregnant women with pre-natal care.”

Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson said he may appoint a special committee to look into how the country can respond to the mounting public pressure, the Guardian reported.

“It has been our goal in international politics to be of help in as many areas as possible and this is one of the areas where the need is most right now," he told Icelandic outlet RÚV.

The outpouring of support in Iceland is the latest public expression in Europe of solidarity with migrants, who have fled from parts of war-torn Africa and the Middle East. Last week, German soccer fans held up banners to welcome the more than 800,000 refugees expected in the country this year.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon last week called for "much more" action to address the migration crisis after dozens of bodies were discovered in an abandoned truck near the Austrian border.

"I appeal to all governments involved to provide comprehensive responses, expand safe and legal channels of migration and act with humanity, compassion and in accordance with their international obligations," Ban said in a statement. 

H/T Slate

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