Icelanders tell government to take in more Syrian refugees

Icelanders tell government to take in more Syrian refugees

© Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Around 12,000 people from a population of little over 300,000 joined the Facebook page.

The government had earlier announced plans to take in 50 refugees from the Syrian conflict. That small number - over 4 million people have fled Syria since a civil war erupted there in 2011 - prompted Icelanders to sign up to the page which aimed to show the government there was public will to do more.

Prime Minister Sigmund David Gunnlaugsson now says a special council comprised of several ministers will map Iceland's resources to see how many refugees could be taken and said the government now had no fixed number.

"After we got rid of the army from Iceland there is lots of empty housing in the old army base. It is evident that it is immoral to have it standing empty while people are dying," Oli Gneisti Soleyjarson, wrote in a comment. Iceland has no standing army.

Another on Facebook, a single mother, offered her two extra rooms to a Syrian family saying "One of the rooms is rather large and the other is smaller ... I am offering these two rooms and would of course buy beds".

The island nation, isolated in the North Atlantic with Greenland as its closest neighbor, has taken in 39 refugees in the past five years, 13 of them from Syria. Since 1956, the number of refugees totals just 511 people.

But the Facebook page mentions an incident in 1973 when mainland Iceland absorbed 4,000 people from the tiny Westman Islands close by after a sudden eruption from Eldfell volcano.

It says this was proof Iceland could do more.

(Reporting by Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir in Reykjavik; writing by Sabina Zawadzki Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)