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Thousands of Icelanders offer to shelter Syrian refugees in their homes

More than 12,000 Icelanders took part in a Facebook campaign offering up their homes to Syrians in plight
Syrian refugee flashes the victory sign after arriving on the shores of Lesbos island in Greece on 23 August (AFP)

Thousands of Icelanders have offered to welcome Syrian refugees into their homes, as part of a Facebook campaign launched by a prominent author on Sunday.

The Icelandic government which rules over a population of only 300,0000 people, said it would only accept 50 refugees.

Author and professor Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir asked Icelanders to speak out if they wanted the government to do more to help Syrian refugees.

“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," Bjorgvinsdottir told Icelandic public television RUV.

More than 12,000 people took to Facebook to offer up their homes speaking up in favour of Syrians in plight.

"I'm a single mother with a six-year-old son... We can take a child in need. I'm a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society,” the Telegraphy reported Hekla Stefansdottir as writing in a post.

“We have clothes, a bed, toys and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket," added Stefansdottir.

“I want to help one displaced family have the chance to live the carefree life that I do,” wrote another Icelander.

“We as a family are willing to provide the refugees with temporary housing near Egilsstaoir [eastern Iceland], clothing and other assistance. I am a teacher and I can help children with their learning.”

The Icelandic government is now looking at increasing its refugee quota.

Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur Davio Gunnlaugsson, said he was aware of increasing popular pressure to take in more refugees.

“I assume that during Tuesday’s cabinet meeting I will propose the establishment of a special committee of ministers to discuss the problem and evaluate how Icelanders can respond, how we can contribute as much as possible,” he told RUV.

Welfare Minister Eyglo Hardardottir also told RUV that authorities were examining offers made on Facebook, and would consider upping the number of refugees accepted under a humanitarian quota.

"I have made it clear that I don't want to name a maximum figure,” she said. “But we (will) explore every avenue available in welcoming more refugees.”

The welcoming attitude of Icelanders has been shared among other Europeans over the past few weeks.

German football fans held up signs at matches last week welcoming Syrians fleeing persecution, while many German citizens also offered their homes to the refugees.

Furthermore, about 20,000 people took to the streets of Vienna on Monday to protest the ill treatment of refugees, after the bodies of 71 people were found in an abandoned truck last week.