September 4, 2015   |   Michaela Whitton
September 4, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — The Icelandic government is reconsidering its national refugee quota after a social media campaign resulted in over 11,000 Icelanders offering up a room in their homes to refugees.
As Europe struggles to cope with unprecedented levels of those seeking shelter, residents of the sparsely populated Nordic island country resorted to direct action to pressure their leaders.
Iceland was recently awarded the title of “most peaceful country” in the Global Peace Index, with Syria ranking the least peaceful. With a population of 330,000 — less than many European cities — the country’s government had previously stated it could only take in 50 people this year.
Taking matters into their own hands, over 16,000 Icelanders joined a Facebook page created on Sunday to pressurize the Icelandic government into accepting more refugees.
In addition to offering rooms in homes, people have pledged financial support with air fares, language teaching, clothing, food, and toys, and the page has been inundated with messages of gratitude from Syrians, some of whom are writing from refugee camps.
As a result of the outpouring of support, Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson announced that a committee is being formed to re-assess the country’s current policy.
Founder of the Facebook group, author and professor, Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, said her country’s attitude was being changed by tragic news reports. “I think people have had enough of seeing news stories from the Mediterranean and refugee camps of dying people and they want something done now,” she told Iceland’s RUV television.
Undoubtedly, thousands of people across the globe are equally horrified. Inspired by Iceland’s example, social media campaigns have sprung up and united those who are dismayed by the pitiful humanitarian response to the crisis. As distressing images and stories of the hurdles and barriers faced at every turn by those seeking sanctuary saturate the European press, similar schemes have snowballed throughout Europe.
In Britain, more and more people are condemning the government’s shameful response to the crisis — a response particularly ironic considering most refugees are fleeing conflicts that the U.K.’s imperialist interventions have directly contributed to.
Not prepared to sit back, groups like Citizens UK are pressuring U.K. leaders to step up to the plate. More than 250,000 Brits have signed a petition calling for Britain to take its fair share of Syrian refugees.
Ireland’s ”Pledge a Bed” campaign was overwhelmed with thousands of offers of spare rooms within hours of its launch while hundreds of Germans have offered to share their homes on the Refugees Welcome website.
Swiftly following suit and not to be outdone, offers of support haven’t stopped at Europe’s shores. A U.S. group called Open Homes, Open Hearts US – for Syrian refugees launched earlier this week.
With no easy answers and no end in sight, the political firestorm will continue, as will the global outrage at the humanitarian tragedy. The only thing clear is that if the West were prepared to accept more refugees, desperate families wouldn’t be forced to rely on smugglers or to climb into perilous boats and refrigeration lorries.
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Michaela Whitton joined Anti-Media as its first journalist abroad in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include human rights, conflict, the Middle East, Palestine, and Israel. Born and residing in the United Kingdom, she is also a photographer. Learn more about Whitton here!