The attitude of inhabitants in Reykjanesbær in Southwest Iceland, where the majority of asylum seekers in Iceland live and where a hostel housing some asylum seekers is located, are more negative than that of inhabitants in the capital region, a recent survey concluded. They believe the asylum seekers receive higher financial support than in reality.
Sixty-six percent of respondents in Reykjanesbær either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “the stay of asylum seekers in the country is good for the community.” In Reykjavík, 29 percent of respondents felt the same way.
“It can probably be explained by the closeness because there were so many asylum seekers here at one point and people noticed them more than in Reykjavík,” Jóhanna María Jónsdóttir, who carried out the survey, told Vísir.
The survey was part of Jóhanna’s B.S. thesis in economics at Bifröst University, West Iceland. She explained that she had picked the topic as she herself had been prejudiced towards asylum seekers and wanted to find out how much their stay in Iceland cost.
“I lived in Suðurnes and worked in Reykjanesbær at the time [of picking the topic] and noticed rather negative discussions. The discussions were often about [the asylum seekers] getting too much money, that they cost the municipality a lot of money and didn’t have a good impact on society,” Jóhanna revealed.
The survey concluded that 61 percent of respondents in Reykjanesbær believed that asylum seekers received substantial funds, while 30 percent of Reykjavík residents were of the same opinion. People were asked to guess how much money asylum seekers received and especially in Reykjanesbær, the amounts were much higher than in actuality.
The social services receive ISK 7,477 (USD 57, EUR 50) per day for each asylum seeker which is to cover costs such as housing, heating, electricity and medical services. Each asylum seeker receives an additional ISK 8,000 credit balance at a supermarket chain and ISK 2,700 in allowances per week.
Jóhanna stated that the results had been surprising. “I knew that the attitude was negative but not that negative, like how much difference there was in what people thought the [asylum seekers] were receiving and what they do receive.”
Until 2013, Reykjanesbær was the only municipality in Iceland responsible for accommodating asylum seekers.
The number of asylum seekers in Reykjanesbær totaled 200 at one time. The municipality has a population of around 14,500.