Looking the part

“[g]ay asylum seekers are increasingly going to extreme lengths to meet immigration officials’ demands that they prove their sexual identity […]. This includes filming themselves having sex.”

Last week the Icelandic government decided to include queer peoplein a group of 10 to 14 refugees from Afghanistan (and perhaps Iran) which will be granted asylum in Iceland in 2013 and 2014. For the past years Icelandic authorities have mainly chosen to offer single women with children asylum and this will be the first time that sexual minorities are included.

– By Íris Ellenberger

There has been a debate about queer asylum seekers within the Icelandic queer community since last May when the authorities refused to consider the asylum application of a gay Nigerian named Martin. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria and punishable with 14 years of imprisonment in some regions. Martin had fled Nigeria, having been abused on account of his sexual orientation, and ended up in Italy where he applied unsuccessfully for asylum. There he lived under harsh conditions for nine years before seeking asylum in Iceland in the summer of 2012. Some months later, in the spring of 2013, his application was dismissed on ground of the Dublin Regulation which states that asylum applications should be dealt with by the first state a refugee arrives to, which is hardly ever Iceland.

Martin was to be deported to Italy when NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) such as No Borders and The National Queer Association (Samtökin ’78) intervened, putting pressure on the Minister of the Interior, Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, to reopen the case on the grounds that he would most likely be deported from Italy to Nigeria, where he risks being persecuted because of his sexual orientation. The minister agreed to look at his application again and accordingly postponed his deportation.

Even if Martin‘s fate is still undecided, last week’s government decision indicates that Icelandic authorities are more willing to take sexual orientation and gender identity into consideration when granting asylum (or residence permits on humanitarian grounds which is usually the verdict with applications from individuals). And that is awesome, right? Well, maybe not entirely judging by the experience of asylum seekers in our neighboring countries.

Iceland is not the first country in the world to grant members of sexual minorities’ asylum on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In some of these countries, including the UK and Canada, it is becoming clear that queer asylum seekers being affected by harsher attitudes and stricter measures in a particular way. Natalie Kouri-Towe pointed out, in an article in the Canadian webzine No More Potlucks in 2011, that „[q]ueer asylum seekers in Canada are commonly scrutinized for their gender presentation and sexual practices in judgments over their refugee claims. Asylum seekers are regularly denied status and deported on the basis that they don’t appear to be gay. “ Despite this the Canadian Minister of Citizenships, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, had used queer asylum seekers to make the immigration system seem unbiased and Canada appear morally superior while simultaneously cracking down on asylum seekers, „increasing deportation and detentions …“

Similarly The Guardian reported earlier this year that „[g]ay asylum seekers are increasingly going to extreme lengths to meet immigration officials’ demands that they prove their sexual identity or else be returned to countries where they face persecution.“ This includes filming themselves having sex. According to altered official guidelines asylum seekers go through an assessment during which they have to prove that they are gay, lesbian or transsexual in order to be granted asylum. This of course puts extra pressure on people who have already suffered persecution in their home countries, gone to great trouble to get the Europe or North America and then been met with oppressing immigration systems which have been proven to take a very large toll on their mental and physical health. We must not forget that last week, just days before the Icelandic government‘s announcement that they would include queer refugees in their handpicked group of 10-14 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, another asylum seeker committed suicide in the town of Keflavík, where most refugees in Iceland reside. And that is not the first time this has happened in Iceland.

It remains to be seen how things will play out for queer asylum seekers here. As soon as the announcement hit the news last week, commenters began speculating that refugees would start faking homosexuality. In the spring of 2012 six asylum seekers came to Iceland, who claimed to be under 18 years of age and thus guaranteed certain rights according to the Convention on the Right of the Child. They appeared older so they were forced to undergo dental examinations which would determine their age. They were told that if they refused they would be treated as adults within the system. Only one turned out to be a minor, according to those tests, but if their treatment is any indication, queer individuals will probably not be granted asylum without scrutiny. So it presents a dilemma, when the government wants to provide queer asylum seekers special exemptions, while simultaneously perpetuating an oppressive immigration system which makes it almost impossible for individuals to get asylum in Iceland and forces them to live under harsh conditions while their fate is being decided. After all, how are you going to prove, for example, that someone is homosexual or that their sexual identity does not “match” their biological sex? Not to mention all the people who fall outside the homosexual/heterosexual, male/female binaries.

Who knows? Maybe the Icelandic authorities will be just fine with taking queer asylum seekers at their word. But judging by experience, my guess is that this will not be the case. So before we start cheering we might want to stop and consider whether special exemptions or measures for queer asylum seekers might have a detrimental effect on their lives, especially those who do not look, speak or act according to the stereotype of homosexual and transgender people.

It is certainly great that the Icelandic authorities are taking steps to alleviate the conditions of a marginalized group among refugees and asylum seekers. But the solution does not seem to be that simple, judging from the experiences in the UK and Canada. In order to aid queer refugees and asylum seekers it will probably not be enough move gender identity and sexual orientation further up on the list of priorities. The government must also recognize that it is likely that the best way to really truly ensure the welfare of queer asylum seekers is to induce much more humane and just regulations and environments for asylum seekers in general.

As for the queer community, it has in recent years enjoyed quite a bit of good will from the authorities and the general population. It is understandable that queer Icelanders are not willing to risk their privileged status, compared to other minorities in Iceland, by joining forces with probably the most controversial group of them all. But the queer community must consider the possibility that the most effective way to gain equality and justice for all queer individuals in Iceland, regardless of legal status, is to join the fight for the rights of all asylum seekers. That is, if it is willing to do the right thing by the most marginalized of us all.

Á. Óskarsson
Á. Óskarsson

Á. Óskarsson offers a variety of products and services to sports centers, swimming pools, schools, kindergartens, and the general public. The company specializes in sport-related products, activity-focused games, and a wide range of solutions for sports facilities.

Á. Óskarsson has been involved in numerous big projects related to building sports facilities and has made it their benchmark to offer good quality products and equipment since the company was founded.

See links to social media in the upper left-hand corner


Á. Óskarsson selur fjölbreytt vöruúrval fyrir íþróttahús, sundlaugar, skóla og leikskóla og einnig ýmsar vörur til einkaafnota. Fyrirtækið selur vörur til íþróttaiðkunnar og leikja ásamt því að bjóða upp á ýmsar lausnir fyrir íþróttamannvirki.

Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

Tenglar á samfélagsmiðla eru í efra horninu vinstra megin.



    Blush was founded in 2011 when it started selling high quality sex products. The goal from the beginning was to change the market and take the discussion about sex products to a higher level. Today Blush provides professional services in a pleasant environment that fulfills different needs, both for individuals and couples. Blush respects diversity and wants to set a good example in all of its messaging to target audiences. Sexual health and equality in sex is important and Blush wants to focus on those issues through education and open discussion. Blush works in a socially responsible manner for society, their customers and the environment.

    Check out Blush’s website: https://blush.is/

    Omnom Chocolate
    - award-winning chocolate maker

      Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

      Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

      Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

      In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

      At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.




        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
        comes from 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals—the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        - leading financial institution

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

        The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

        Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        - get inspired

        Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

        Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

        More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

        VSÓ Ráðgjöf


          VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

          - for all your Apple needs

          From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

          Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
          For all your Apple needs. We are here.

          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Contact Us

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