Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration says the applications of Syrian asylum seekers in Iceland are being prioritized over those of other countries. However, under the government’s current policy, Iceland will not grant protection to those who have not yet arrived in the country, ruv.is reports.
The Swedish government announced today that all Syrian asylum seekers in Sweden will be granted permanent residency permits due to the current conditions in Syria. In doing so, the country becomes the first European nation to grant permanent residency to Syrian asylum seekers.
According to thelocal.se, the decision covers all asylum seekers from Syria who have been granted temporary residency in Sweden for humanitarian protection—approximately 8,000 individuals. The Swedish government also announced that asylum seekers could apply for their closest family members to join them in Sweden.
The Icelandic Directorate of Immigration says that it does not expect Syrians to arrive in Iceland en masse, as they have in other countries, as people tend to apply for asylum where their friends and family are already living and there isn’t a large Syrian community in the country, ruv.is reports. “Of course some might come but I don’t expect that there will be large groups,” director Kristín Völundardóttir said.
Kristín explained that the directorate currently grants Syrians protection visas for four years but the procedure takes less time than for other asylum seekers.
More than two million people have fled Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, along with his counterparts in the Nordic and Baltic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Norway), released a statement earlier today deploring the use of chemical weapons in Syria.