65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 21

65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 21
FOREIGN WORKERS How Are They Having It? One gets the impression from the Reykjavik newspapers that most disturbances involving young people are directly caused by the foreign- ers in their midst, though the foreigners might comprise a bare minimum. 65° presented the situation of the foreign worker to Jon Sigurpalsson of the Immigration Service in Reykjavik for some edifying answers. It is rather exceptional for a foreign worker to create disturbances requiring police interven- tion, Mr. Sigurpalsson says, but when it happens, it often receives more publicity than when it in- volves only Icelanders. Occasionally someone who appears to be an alien is questioned by the police to make sure his papers are in order, but this seldom happens. On the other hand, foreigners from all walks of life often come to the police themselves for direc- tion or information. There are few complaints from them, and when they do arise they may often be based on mutual misunderstanding. Mr. Sigurpalsson agreed that one such misunder- standing might be “pushing”. Some foreigners regard pushing as an implied insult and become irritated or fighting mad depending on the mean- ing of such bodily contact in their own culture. Some Icelanders, on the other hand, do not regard pushing or being pushed as an insult. If they push it is to remove an impersonal harrier to their progress, and they feel little need to excuse themselves, nor do they intend or expect a fight. Last December, he explained, several articles appeared in the newspapers regarding “flaeking- ar” (bums) who were filling up the streets and restaurants during the dark winter days. These workers had actually come for the fishing season, at which work many eventually found jobs, but the season was delayed and they actually had nothing to do but wait for the fish — as many Icelanders do. Between seven hundred and one thousand Faro- ese come to Iceland annually for the fishing work — most of them, however, pre-hired on arrival. Perhaps one to two hundred British come, in- cluding Australians and New Zealanders, and many of them are students. A number of Spani- ards and Germans also come, but the majority of the transient workers, excepting the Faroese, are inexperienced. Are they screened before coming or counted on arrival? No. Visa abolition agreements have been made between Iceland and most neighboring countries, and a person doesn’t need to fill out a registration card unless the origin of the country concerned requires a visa. Also a special agree- ment exists among the Scandinavian countries under which a person may travel freely for three months in Scandinavia without the usual passport control. Iceland’s Aliens’ law requires that a person have a work permit if he enters the country to work. This permit is granted to the employer after consulting the union concerned. If there is no work permit, the applicant can be denied ad- mittance. The Minister of Social Affairs has the authority to grant a permit with or without the consent of the unions. Without a permit, an ap- plicant may say, as many do, that he comes as a tourist with the idea of looking for work. In that case, of course, he can stay up to three months here, provided he can support himself — hence the small quarters often occupied by tourist- workers. What do the unions think about foreign work- ers? Provided there are enough jobs for every- one, the unions make no complaints. Most skilled- worker jobs are advertised abroad and permits forwarded, but the majority who come without permits are unskilled workers. Up till now foreign workers have not been taking jobs from Icelanders, but there are fewer jobs to he had than before. Little friction develops between workers because of superior skill of the foreigners. Usually the foreign worker is less ef- ficient and less trained in the way things are done in Iceland. What friction might develop may he due to dating, but that is an individual matter of which I know nothing, he said. (5^9 65 19



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