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This article was published 27/2/2009 (4499 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- It might not be a Barack Obama-style welcome, but Manitoba Immigration Minister Nancy Allan will likely be wined and dined next week on a visit to Iceland.
Allan will travel to Reykjavik on Tuesday to sort out the details of a new immigration agreement to help find jobs in Manitoba for some of the thousands of unemployed workers in the economically devastated country.
But she's getting a little nervous because "word is getting out in Iceland" that she is coming.
Atli Asmundsson, the consul general for Iceland in Manitoba, said there is "considerable interest" in Iceland about moving to Manitoba, and Allan's visit will be a big event.
"I dare say it will have quite a lot of attention paid to it," he said.
More than 11,000 people in Iceland are unemployed amid massive economic problems that include the government declaring bankruptcy. Because of Manitoba's large Icelandic population, the provincial government, the Icelandic consulate and government and businesses in Gimli, have seen a flurry of phone calls and email inquiries from Icelanders looking to escape the economic problems of Iceland and immigrate to Manitoba.
Asmundsson said that although it is not all that common for people to want to leave their country, for an Icelander, moving to Manitoba is "completely different" because Manitoba has such a large Icelandic community.
"It makes it seem not as far away as 5,000 kilometres really is," Asmundsson said.
Allan's office has been working with Asmundsson and other Icelandic officials for the last several weeks on a program to help facilitate the move, and on Tuesday she will travel to the country to meet with her counterpart there and get the workings of a deal signed.
"We're hoping, certainly, we'll have the basics ironed out," she said.
Manitoba plans to sign an agreement committing the province to help Manitoba employers recruit Icelanders to fill job openings.
In particular, the province is looking at the information technology, biotechnology, geothermal energy, health care and social services sectors, where there is a need in Manitoba and a lot of skilled workers in Iceland.
The agreement will be to grant a temporary- worker permit to anyone who can secure a job in Manitoba. Allan said there will be a lot of scrutiny to ensure these are jobs employers have been unable to fill locally.
"We're going to have to watch this very closely as our own economy faces troubles," she said.
If workers stay for at least six months and have an offer of a permanent job, they'll be able to apply for permanent immigration status through Manitoba's provincial nominee program.
But Allan said the temporary permits will be issued first so if the immigrants want to go home after the Icelandic economy improves, they can easily do so.