Iceland Airwaves Culture Preview: Immigration, Deportation And Politics (LISTEN)

We’re headed cover Iceland Airwaves Music Festival and other cultural stories beginning Sunday, 10/30! Follow along on our adventures via our Iceland Airwaves 2016 daily blog and hear an Icelandic cultural preview interview below.

It’s officially fall. And while that means it’s pumpkin spice and Halloween time, it also signifies another important thing … election season. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump butt heads on many issues. And immigration is one of the most contentious. But immigrants aren’t just integral in United States’ politics–From immigration policies to deportation, the issue also occurs in Iceland, though it may not be at the very forefront of candidates’ speeches.

Iceland is known for its relatively “clean” gene pool … it is like the opposite of America’s “melting pot.” But more and more people have been moving to Iceland, whether they’re immigrating or seeking refuge or asylum. According Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration, “177 individuals applied for asylum in the first 4 months of 2016—around three times more than the same period last year.” Like the United States, Icelanders are usually welcoming. But there have been issues amongst nationalists with Iceland’s turn to a more multicultural country.

When it comes to immigration policies, Iceland is very strict. For Americans, the chances of legally immigrating to the country are slim to none. Only those from the European Economic Area + Switzerland are to immigrate. Margrét Steinarsdóttir is the Director of Icelandic Human Rights Centre. She explains a new law that was passed to help immigrants.

According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants are also welcomed into the United States under certain categories: “the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees, and promoting diversity.” According to a 2014 study by the Economic Policy Institute, immigrants made up 13 percent of the population and are 16 percent of the labor force. Immigrants’ impact shows on the economy in Iceland as well. Unnur Skaptadóttir is a professor of anthropology at the University of Iceland. She says that most immigrants have come to Iceland to join the labor force, and therefore have influenced Iceland both economically and culturally.

While many people are for letting foreigners into Iceland, some aren’t. Earlier this year, a new party was formed in Iceland called the Icelandic National Front, or INF. The right wing party is in favor of strict border controls and “rejects multiculturalism in Iceland.” Steinarsdóttir says the Icelandic National Front is trying to get votes through inciting fear of immigrants and is exercising hate speech towards them.

The INF’s stance seem similar to Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump has stated he wants to build a wall on the Mexican border and get rid of all undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. On the other hand, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has said she would work towards reform and citizenship for all immigrants. She has plans to create the Office of Immigrant Affairs to handle the subject more efficiently.

Protests against immigration laws take place in both the United States and Iceland. At the Republican National Convention, protesters against deportation staged a mock wall and set it up on RNC grounds. In Iceland, several communities have protested deportations. In September, Iranian Morteza Songolzadeh was set to be deported, but, as Skaptadóttir explains, his deportation was waived.

For two very differently sized and populated countries, both Iceland and the United States have complex immigration laws set in place. Though immigration may be presented as more of an issue in the United States, it still makes an impact in Iceland. From the government and laws to community living and a subject to propel change, immigration and deportation are worldly issues that are still trying to be figured out how to be dealt with today.

About Erin Brown

Columbia College Chicago multimedia photojournalism major. Photo editor at the Columbia Chronicle. Concert photographer for Music Existence and former contributing writer for Atwood Magazine.
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