Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter an­dre.poyser@glean­

ICE­LAND IS a coun­try of sharp con­trasts. In this Nordic is­land, one can find fire and ice co­ex­ist­ing in the same lo­ca­tion and also ex­pe­ri­ence the dark­est of win­ters pre­ceded by sum­mer days, where the sun shines even at mid­night.

The con­trast re­flected in the staff com­ple­ment of Ice­landic law firm Rét­tur – Adal­steins­son & Part­ners, where Claudie Wil­son is the only black lawyer, is also equally strik­ing.

Hav­ing mi­grated to Ice­land at age 18, Wil­son ex­pertly nav­i­gated her way through the Ice­landic ter­tiary-ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem to ful­fil her dream of be­com­ing a lawyer.

As a Ja­maican liv­ing in Ice­land, the Mal­don High School grad­u­ate boasts many firsts. She is be­lieved to be the first Ja­maican to have been ac­cepted to study law at Reyk­javik Univer­sity, the first to be ap­pointed to the Wel­fare Watch of Ice­land by the Min­istry of Wel­fare, the first to be a so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties co­or­di­na­tor for asy­lum seek­ers with the Red Cross in Ice­land, and the first to be ap­pointed vice-chair of Women of Mul­ti­cul­tural Eth­nic­ity Network (WOMEN) in Ice­land.

Wil­son says she hopes to con­tinue this trend as she has her heart set on be­com­ing one of the nine Supreme Court jus­tices in Ice­land.

For the time be­ing, how­ever, her work at Ice­land’s lead­ing firm for hu­man-rights en­force­ment and her 10-year-old twin sons con­sume much of her at­ten­tion.

“I was de­lighted when my ap­pli­ca­tion to in­tern with the firm was ac­cepted in 2013. Upon com­ple­tion of my four-week in­tern­ship, I con­tin­ued work­ing at Rét­tur as a para­le­gal. I grad­u­ated in 2014, and I was sub­se­quently hired in a full-time po­si­tion. To­day, I spe­cialise in im­mi­gra­tion and refugee law, but I have also ex­panded my prac­tice ar­eas to in­clude in­sol­vency and com­pany law,” she said, while ex­plain­ing how she landed the job at Rét­tur.

Wil­son told The Gleaner that she de­cided to mi­grate to Ice­land af­ter meet­ing her sons’ fa­ther, a na­tive of the Nordic coun­try.

“I re­mem­ber clearly the re­ac­tion of my fam­ily and friends when I told them I would be mi­grat­ing to Ice­land. Some ques­tioned my choice and found it ab­surd for a Ja­maican to mi­grate to, while oth­ers con­sid­ered Ice­land not to be ‘for­eign’ in the Ja­maican sense of the word,” she said.

While not dis­put­ing that ad­just­ing to a Nordic ex­is­tence had its chal­lenges, Wil­son was quick to dis­pel the per­cep­tion that Ice­land is the cold­est place on the planet.

“Sur­pris­ingly, win­ters here are of­ten bet­ter than win­ters in Eng­land, cer­tain states in the United States, in­clud­ing New York, as well as Canada.”


Ac­cord­ing to Wil­son, her am­bi­tion to earn a space in law school helped her over­come her fear and self-doubt to mas­ter the Ice­landic lan­guage. Her de­ter­mi­na­tion in this re­gard was fer­mented even more af­ter her ap­pli­ca­tion to Reyk­javik Law School was ini­tially turned down due to con­cerns that she was not a flu­ent Ice­landic speaker.

Hav­ing con­quered that hur­dle, she went on to do ad­vanced stud­ies in Euro­pean refugee law and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. Her mas­ter’s the­sis fo­cused on the Dublin Reg­u­la­tion, a piece of Euro­pean Union (EU) leg­is­la­tion that gov­erns asy­lum seek­ers in EU mem­ber states.

Apart from be­ing heav­ily in­volved in im­mi­grant mat­ters in Ice­land, Wil­son has a very ac­tive fam­ily life and meets reg­u­larly with sev­eral other Ja­maicans who live on the Nordic is­land.

“I am a sin­gle mom with a pair of iden­ti­cal twin boys. They will turn 11 in De­cem­ber. My sis­ter mi­grated here in early 2004. She also lives here with her fam­ily. There are other Ja­maicans who re­side here, so we sup­port each other and some­times meet for a good old-fash­ioned cook­out. There are Ja­maicans who’ve resided here for up to 40 years,” she said.

While not­ing that leg­isla­tive and pol­icy changes on im­mi­gra­tion would make it vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for Ja­maicans to mi­grate to Ice­land to­day, Wil­son be­lieves that there is room for the diplo­matic ties be­tween both coun­tries to be en­hanced.

“In my view, a start­ing point to­wards cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ja­maicans in Ice­land would be to strengthen those diplo­matic re­la­tions. I am con­vinced that a strong re­la­tion­ship be­tween both coun­tries could be mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial to their cit­i­zens. Ice­landers have been and con­tinue to be fas­ci­nated with the Ja­maican cul­ture, so there is def­i­nite po­ten­tial to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ja­maicans in Ice­land,” she said.

There are other Ja­maicans who re­side here, so we sup­port each other and some­times meet for a good old-fash­ioned cook­out.

Claudie Wil­son

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