Icelanders pledge to open their homes to Syrian refugees

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The Turkish military guards border fences as Syrian refugees cross into southeastern Turkey near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province earlier this summer. Icelanders are pressurng their government to allow more Syrian refugees into their country. Photo by Osman Orsal/Reuters

The Turkish military guards border fences as Syrian refugees cross into southeastern Turkey near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province earlier this summer. Icelanders are pressurng their government to allow more Syrian refugees into their country. Photo by Osman Orsal/Reuters

More than 12,000 Icelanders are offering to help Syrian refugees after the government said it would only take in 50.

The movement started on Facebook when author and professor Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir created a page called “Dear Eygló Harðar — Syria is Calling” urging Icelanders to speak out and support Syrian refugees in any way they can.

Björgvinsdóttir writes on the page the purpose is “to show the government that there exists a will to receive even more refugees from Syria than the 50 that have already been discussed. We want to push the government — show them that we can do better, and do so immediately!”

Many are offering to open up their home or give aid, while others are simply showing their support to put pressure on the Icelandic government.

Even people from other countries are chiming in and hoping to help.

One man writes “We live in Prague with our three-year-old daughter. Our flat is too small to accommodate anyone, but we are exploring ways to sponsor a child or a family less fortunate than we are.”

While another posts “I live in France. How can I help?”

Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson told Icelandic station RUV he intends to appoint ministers to address the growing pressure to receive more refugees.

“I think there is a consensus that we should do more to respond to the problem,” Gunnlaugsson told RUV, “we just need to find out how we [can] do it best.”

Welfare Minister Eyglo Hardardottir hasn’t named a maximum figure yet, but told RUV they would explore every avenue available in welcoming more refugees.

Iceland, a country of around 330,000 (the U.S. has around 320 million), is responding to more than 4 million Syrian refugees who have fled their warring country. The United Nations calls the conflict the worst humanitarian crisis for almost a quarter of a century.

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